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Researchers have found a new protein that repairs damaged DNA in human cells in order to prevent mutations, a discovery that could have major implications for cancer treatments.
According to scientists at the University of Dundee, the protein FAN1 – described as “molecular scissors” – was found to “trim” pieces of damaged DNA, helping prevent gene mutations that can lead to cancer.
The protein also removes leftover pieces that can get in the way.
John Rouse, of the university’s College of Life Sciences, said: “Cells that do not have FAN1 are unable to repair DNA breaks and their DNA becomes irreversibly damaged and cells die. This underlines the fundamental importance of FAN1.
“Now that we have identified FAN1 and the role it plays in repairing DNA we can start to develop drugs that inhibit it.
“This may have a significant effect in cancer, primarily in helping to greatly enhance the efficacy of drugs used in chemotherapy treatments.”
The research – funded by the Medical Research Council – has been published in the journal Cell.
Copyright Press Association 2010