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Advances in Health and Medicine

Studying DNA to Fight Disease and Aging


Every second, in each human chromosome, billions of DNA strands replicate themselves. Every replication error contributes to aging and disease. Pitt scientists seek to minimize these errors.

In a vicious cycle, aging can increase the number of replication errors, which can exacerbate the effects of aging. Geneticist Laura Niedernhofer has twin rats that have aged differently; understanding why could help her reverse the effects of aging. Environmental and occupational health professor Patricia Opresko thinks the answer could be DNA instability related to genetic and environmental factors.

As DNA replicates, repair enzymes detect damaged or modified bases. Biochemistry professor Bennett Van Houten’s group studies the structure and function of these repair enzymes, global responses to stress, and the consequences of DNA damage.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute are determined to keep cells’ DNA strands in tip-top condition. They already have linked breast cancer and colon cancer to bad DNA repair jobs and faulty replication.