Confused

 

Why what we do is important:

There are 2 meters of DNA in each of the cells in your body contained in a space only around 20millionths of a meter long. This means DNA has to be folded very tightly to fit.

The first level of organisation is the wrapping of the DNA around a set of proteins known as an octamer to make nucleosomes.  This gives a “beads on a string” like structure. 

Imagine 23 of these beads on a string, like necklaces squeezed into a small jewellery box.  

The cell has to keep these from getting tangled and has to be able to access the DNA at all times because our DNA contains all the information that our bodies need to respond to different situations, even ones we don’t realise.

For example if you get sunburnt at the beach your cells will immediately need to access your DNA to get the information for how to deal with damage from the sun.  If the damage is too bad your skin might have to commit cell “suicide” and you will peel. If this didn’t happen properly you could develop cancer.

Our lab studies how the cell keeps all this information accessible when it’s needed and filed out of the way when it isn’t.  Some of the basics remain to be discovered, but It’s already known that diseases can arise when things don’t go to plan. 


Molecular Motors

An astonishing array of machines in our lives use very similar engines for very diverse functions, this is just the same in our cells where lots of proteins will share components but do different jobs.  Some are very well understood and others are little known and only grouped with others because of the presence of these components.

In our lab we are interested in groups of proteins that have a “motor” that can move DNA around. We want to try to understand better how these motors work and uncover some of the roles these proteins play in our cells.


Links to Cancer

 

While we have been studying the molecular motors that alter chromatin for some time, it has recently been discovered that these motors are altered at unusually high frequencies in a range of human cancers. As a result we are now working to understand how these alterations cause cancer with the hope of finding new treatments.