Scientists Manipulate DNA Molecules to Fight Cancer

The Hebrew University team is studying a complicated chemical process in our genetic material in order to control it -- and prevent tumours
A team of scientists from the Developmental Biology & Cancer Research Department at the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Medicine is attempting to solve one of the biggest challenges in molecular biology: how to control the way genes are read and turned into cells.
The entire human body is created from an original pool of stem cells that develop at the very early stages of the embryo. These cells have the ability to differentiate into other cell types, and their designation is determined by a highly sophisticated process called methylation.
The process, which involves the binding of methyl molecules to the DNA, changes the way the cell’s genetic text is read -- and creates a new annotation which results in the development of a new cell type. Once this intricate process reaches its final stages, the annotation can no longer be changed, and the cell’s exact designation is set for life.
The Hebrew University team, headed by Prof. Howard Cedar, is working on deciphering how the annotation is determined and how it can be changed to programme​ cell designation. Their work is particularly important for understanding diseases like cancer, in which the genetic text is almost normal, but the gene is not being read properly due to an abnormal DNA methylation. A full understanding of the annotation process is a requisite for successfully using stem-cell technology to generate replacement tissues.

Prof. Cedar was granted 1.94 Million Euros for his project on DNA methylation in stem cells, under the 7th Framework programme​.

Two genes replicate in the cell.

Prof. Cedar at his lab