Researchers at the University of Cologne in Germany have discovered that a protein complex prevents the repair of genomic damage in human cells, mice and nematodes. They also successfully suppressed this complex for the first time using a potion. The paper was published in the journal Nature Structural and Molecular Biology on the 23rd.
The researchers say that when the so-called DREAM complex in somatic cells is inhibited, various repair mechanisms are activated, making these cells extremely adaptable, resilient or repairing to various DNA damage. For the first time, the new findings have enabled improved DNA repair in human cells that target the causes of aging and cancer development. Still, more research is needed before these results can be translated into new therapies for human patients.
DNA damage can lead to aging and disease, and DNA repair is essential for the stability of the human genome and the function of cells.
Human genetic material is passed down from generation to generation because highly precise DNA repair mechanisms in germ cells are at work, which ensures that very few changes in genetic material are passed on to future generations. Thanks to DNA repair, the human genome has been inherited from its ancestors for 20,<> years.
Sometimes, babies are born with faulty DNA repair systems that cause them to age faster and develop typical age-related diseases such as neurodegeneration and arteriosclerosis in childhood. In some cases, they also have a greatly increased risk of cancer. These are all consequences of DNA damage not being properly repaired.
The research team explored why somatic cells do not have the same repair mechanisms as germ cells. In experiments on nematodes, they found that the DREAM complex limits the number of DNA repair mechanisms in cells in the body. However, germ cells do not have the DREAM complex. As a result, they naturally produce a large number of DNA repair mechanisms. In further experiments on human cells (cell culture), the researchers found that the DREAM complex functions in the same way in human cells.
Researchers say human cells are much more adaptable, resilient, or repairing to DNA damage after treatment. Treatment of retinal degenerative mice with DREAM complex inhibitors also showed surprising results: DNA in the mouse retina was repaired and eye function was preserved.
Researchers say therapies that target and improve the newly discovered master regulator of DNA repair can reduce cancer risk. In addition, since cells can only function if the genome is intact, it will also reduce the risk of aging-related diseases.