Cancer, aging and neurodegeneration are all linked to accumulation of DNA damage. The Farnebo laboratory is investigating how cells repair such damage and in particular the involvement of RNA molecules in this process. Hopefully, the new insights obtained will help improve cancer treatment.

RNA has far more tasks in the cells than just helping to make proteins. Some RNA, called non-coding RNA, does other things, such as guiding proteins to their correct location. Recent findings from the research team show that non-coding RNA help repairing damaged DNA. Researchers now focus their research (e.g., within in the CIMED framework) on detailed analyses of how RNA cooperate with proteins in the repair process. Thousands of changes occur daily in DNA, which if not repaired correctly can lead to the development of cancer and other diseases. So, a cell’s system for detecting and repairing DNA damage is crucial for health and survival.

Basic research like this is important, since there is still so much to learn about how healthy cells work and what goes wrong to cause cancer. It is much harder to try to fix a cancer cell if we don’t understand exactly what is broken.

For many years, Marianne Farnebo, Associate Professor of experimental oncology at Karolinska Institutet, and her colleagues have conducted research on DNA repair. In 2004, they discovered the WRAP53 gene, proven to play a key role in repairing DNA damage and protecting us from cancer. Individuals with defects in this gene are more prone to cancer and premature aging. And lack of the encoded protein, called WRAP53β, cause shorter survival among patients with various types of cancer (breast, ovarian, head-neck), as well as enhanced resistance of their tumors to radiotherapy. The Farnebo laboratory has also established close collaborations with pathologists and oncologists that allow application of their findings to clinical practice.

“Thus, the new knowledge we hope to gain should help explain how damage to DNA causes diseases, in particular cancer, and, should thereby be enormously valuable in the development of strategies for prevention and treatment.”

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Marianne Farnebo

Marianne Farnebo Lab