Always Wear Sunscreen? Causes, Consequences and “Cures” of Damage to DNA
Over 60 years ago, the molecular structure of DNA was determined by Crick, Watson, Wilkins and Franklin, becoming one of the most iconic and well-recognised molecules. In every minute of every day of our lives, the DNA in our cells is subjected to a barrage of chemical and physical insults. It is well known that a variety of chemical, biological and physical factors, can damage our DNA, potentially resulting in mutations that can lead to cancer or genetic disease. However, considerable DNA damage also naturally occurs during normal cellular metabolism, with around 70000 lesions occurring per cell, every day! However, considering there are nearly 30 trillion cells in the average human, DNA damage leading to mutation and cancer is very rare. This is due to very efficient DNA repair mechanisms, conserved in evolution from bacteria to humans. In this lecture we will explore how DNA actually becomes damaged, the mechanisms that cells use to remove this damage, and what happens when DNA damage goes unrepaired. We will also discuss how conversely, targeting DNA repair mechanisms in cancer can help to potentiate treatments.