UAMS scientist receives $1.9 million grant for DNA damage research

Health News

Justin Leung, Ph.D., was recently awarded a $1.9 million federal grant to support his research on DNA damage response in cancer and genetic disorders. (Photo Courtesy: UAMS)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- A scientist with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) receives a $1.9 million grant from the National Institute of General Medical Studies to continue researching DNA damage response (DDR) in cancer and genetic disorders.

According to a news release sent Tuesday by UAMS, Justin Leung, Ph.D., received the five-year grant for his project “Deciphering the Chromatin-based DNA Damage Response Pathway.”

NIGMS, which is a part of the National Institutes of Health, supports basic research that improves the understanding of biological processes and lays the foundation for advances in disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention, according to UAMS officials.

“DNA damage is a constant threat to our genetic material, so our bodies evolved a surveillance system called the DDR pathway. This pathway maintains our genome integrity by protecting our cells from damage to the genetic information that results in mutations and cell malignancies,” said Leung, who is also an assistant professor in the UAMS College of Medicine Department of Radiation Oncology.

According to UAMS officials, when any component of the DDR pathway is compromised, DNA mutations accumulate in cells, which could potentially lead to diseases, including cancer and genetic disorders.

“Our lab aims to understand how cells precisely repair DNA damage at the right place and right time. We investigate how the DDR is initiated and the mechanism by which DNA repair proteins are brought to the DNA breaks,” Leung said.

Officials say Leung’s grant, known as an R35 Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award, will be used to build a roadmap of the chromatin-based DDR pathway.

According to UAMS officials, the study could provide insight into the causes of cancer and DDR-related genetic disorders and also help to develop therapeutic strategies for cancer treatment.

To read more about research findings published on July 1 from a collaborative project on DNA damage response by Leung and Michael Huen, Ph.D., of the University of Hong Kong, click here.

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