How human genetics work is one question and if science can create an altogether new genetic system is another question for researchers. The grants awarded by Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences and Texas A&M University will be used to find an answer to this.
The first part of the grant focuses on understanding the routes responsible for the chemical alternation of DNA, which is important for both normal biological functions and diseases.
The second part of the grant focuses on developing novel genetic systems that functions in fundamentally different ways than what are known in biology.
Anatomically, in complex genomes of the humans, DNA is chemically modified by the addition of methyl groups. The establishment and maintenance of proper patterns of methyl modifications is a highly choreographed process that not only involves the addition of methyl groups but also their removal via a process known as demethylation.
The combined nature of the work is aimed to discover how a key enzyme in demethylation pathway – DNA glycosylase – finds the correct methyl groups. The objective is to remove these methyl groups and leave the remaining in place. This is an important question with direct applications for diseases as well as potential therapeutics of diseases.
Meanwhile, the accurate elimination of methyl groups from genome is critical for normal development of humans, and dysregulation of the process can lead to many common diseases. For example, the abnormal placing of DNA methyl groups is one of the critical signs of cancer cells. Therefore, the revealing of underlying mechanisms in the regulation of TDG, advances in the understanding of etiology of diseases is expected and to provide impetus for clinical applications in the future.