Lister Fellow’s Nature paper demonstrates the importance of ‘junk’ DNA

Research led by Lister Fellow Professor Sherif El-Khamisy over the past four years has just been published in Nature.

Sherif’s new paper, A mechanism for oxidative damage repair at gene regulatory elements, identifies a new pathway that fixes the breaks in non-coding DNA. This demonstrates the importance of so-called ‘junk’ DNA in the diagnosis and treatment of age-related diseases.

Oxidative stress is an unavoidable consequence of cellular metabolism, accelerating the rate of ageing and multimorbidity. It has long been known that oxidative stress damages the bits in our DNA that encodes proteins essential for life, and this causes diseases associated with ageing. However, the majority of DNA is non-coding and thought to be ‘junk.’

Sherif and his colleagues show that oxidative genomic damage also occurs in what was thought to be ‘junk’ DNA. Excitingly, the formation and repair of breaks there plays an important function to produce proteins that protect us from disease.

Nature has the highest impact factor of any journal publishing discovery science.

“I would like to thank the Lister for the continued support, particularly the flexibility when other sources of funding become tight.”

He continues: “The agility of the Lister funding is what has enabled us completing this work.”

Sherif was awarded the Lister Prize in 2015. He is now a Professor of Molecular Medicine at the University of Sheffield and the Director of the Institute of Cancer Therapeutics at the University of Bradford.

Find out more about Sherif and his research here.