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Research team wins funds to unravel a DNA mystery

An international research team headed by two researchers from the University of Adelaide, Australia, has been awarded a US$900,000 grant to help unravel the phenomenon of "DNA looping".

DNA looping is responsible for controlling the expression of genes in cells. It is believed to play a key role in a number of diseases, including many cancers.

The looping occurs due to the binding of proteins to different regions of the DNA. These proteins interact with each other so that the DNA loops in between them.

The funding, from the Human Frontier Science Program based in France, has been awarded to Dr Keith Shearwin and Dr Ian Dodd in the University's School of Molecular and Biomedical Science.

Their research aims to discover how the correct DNA loops are formed to ensure that the right gene is turned on at the right time and place.

This will be done by comparing DNA looping inside the cell with looping in the test tube and with predictions obtained through computer simulation.

Dr Shearwin and Dr Dodd will be designing the DNA sequences that will be used for the project and will be testing DNA looping inside the cell.

"It is basic research which underpins applied science. Understanding how genes are controlled has huge implications for health and for anything that depends on biology, not only for humans but also all sorts of organisms," Dr Dodd said.

"There are some diseases known which seem to be caused by incorrect looping interactions and improper control of gene interactions including some cancers," Dr Shearwin said.

"Anything we can do to help explain the processes involved could go some way towards helping future research into cancer and other diseases, which is why this basic research has attracted international interest and funding."

Dr Shearwin is a lecturer in biochemistry, with his main research areas being the control of gene expression and the processes involved in genetic development.

Dr Dodd, who has been awarded the William Elliott Biochemistry Research Fellowship, carries out research in molecular biology with a strong interest in using mathematical models to understand complex systems.

Dr Shearwin and Dr Dodd will be working with two teams from Atlanta and Pittsburgh over the next three years.


Contact: Dr. Keith Shearwin
University of Adelaide

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