Dr. Zsuzsanna Izsvk, research group leader at the Max Delbrck Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, has been named recipient of a European Research Council (ERC Advanced) grant worth EUR 1.94 million for her research on "jumping genes" (transposons). With the aid of the ERC grant, in the next five years she will focus on investigating how mobile DNA elements (transposons) influence the pathogenesis of cancer and other diseases in the human genome. Altogether, nine MDC researchers, including Dr. Izsvk, have received grants of more than one million euros from the ERC.
About half of the human genome consists of transposon-derived sequences. Active transposons can jump to various sites of the DNA, insert themselves into the genome of the host and continue to spread in this way. Due to this characteristic, transposons are also called "jumping genes".
As a consequence of mutations, in the course of time most of these "jumping genes" in the human genome have lost their mobility; only a few are still active. These remnants of transposons were long considered to be without any function. However, latest studies have shown that transposons are by no means "junk DNA", but rather can influence the regulation of genes.
"The human genome is much more complex than previously assumed. In many processes in the body and also in disease, transposons may be the decisive factor," Dr. Izsvk said. "That is why we need to take a closer look at transposons and their influence."
With the ERC grant, Dr. Izsvk wants to explore the influence of transposons under stress conditions that are triggered by environmental influences, such as toxins or heavy metals, and to understand the association between transposon-derived regulatory sequences and human diseases. Furthermore, together with her team, Dr. Izsvk wants to advance the use of artificially produced transposons for gene therapy.
Dr. Izsvk has worked for over twenty years in tra
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres