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Research projects

Professor Jessica Downs, Epigenetics and Genome Stability Team

Image of three cells stained with blue and one cell stained with violet.

1. How does the SWI/SNF chromatin remodelling complex help to maintain genome stability?

Genes encoding subunits of the SWI/SNF chromatin remodelling complex are frequently mutated in cancer, and there is evidence that this complex plays a role as a tumour suppressor gene. In addition to regulation of gene expression, the SWI/SNF complex has multiple additional functions that contribute to maintaining genome stability.

The lab is working to understand these functions and how they are regulated in different contexts, which is important for fully understanding the role of SWI/SNF in cancer.

2. How does the chromatin environment change and help respond to DNA damage?

A particular interest is to understand the changes that take place in the chromatin environment surrounding DNA damage, and in particular double-strand breaks. 

The lab is investigating how the dynamic changes in chromatin structure help to signal and repair the DNA damage, and also how these changes influence ongoing DNA metabolism, such as transcription and replication.

3. How do cells respond to irradiation-induced DNA damage?

Radiotherapy is an important tool in the available options for treating cancer.  In collaboration with John Yarnold and Navita Somaiah, the lab is investigating how irradiation-induced damage is repaired under different conditions and in different genetic contexts, which could have value to decisions about radiotherapy in the clinic.

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