Breaking the code: how your DNA can cause – and avoid – disease

Professor Alan Lehmann

In the 30 or so years since Professor Alan Lehmann began studying the "exotic sideline" that was DNA damage and repair, he has seen the subject mushroom into one of the hot topics for research.

The reason? Damage to the DNA molecule's long and delicate structure, which contains the genetic building blocks for human life, is now recognised as one of the underlying causes of cancer and numerous other diseases.

DNA - Damage, Repair and Protection is the subject of Professor Lehmann's Art in Life Sciences lecture this week (Thursday 21 October 2010) - one of a series of lectures that form the Art in Life Science festival at the Ropetackle Centre in Shoreham.

Professor Lehmann, one of the UK's leading researchers of the human genome (the genetic blueprint of human life), will describe how DNA is constantly under attack from the world we live in - from the sun's UV rays and radiation from the ground to the effects of cigarettes and poor diet,

Fortunately, our cells have mechanisms for repairing all this DNA damage. If these repair mechanisms are themselves faulty or ineffective, the resulting unrepaired DNA leads to mutations as cells reproduce, causing tumours and hereditary diseases.

If science can unlock the secret of how DNA molecules are damaged and then repaired, we will be able to design cures and therapies for the 200 or so cancers in the world and other conditions.

One of the major applications of research into DNA damage and repair is the development of therapies that can isolate and kill cancer cells without the harmful side effects usually associated with cancer drugs that kill healthy cells along with cancerous ones.

The talk combines with visual displays from installation and projection artist Malcolm Buchanan-Dick, whose large screen graphics and vivid illustrations will add an extraordinary visual dimension to this hugely important and compelling subject.

Professor Lehmann says: "I hope that combining my talk with Malcolm's graphics will help to get across to a wider audience the importance of DNA damage and repair for human health and disease. I hope that the use of different media to illustrate the talk will also make it more entertaining and understandable"

Notes for editors


DNA - Damage, Repair and Protection is on Thursday 21st October 2010. Doors 7.30pm; Start 8pm. Tickets £6. Book here.

Alan Lehmann is Professor in Molecular Genetics and Chairman of the Sussex Centre for Genome Damage and Stability (GDSC) at the University of Sussex. The GDSC is a research centre investigating the responses of cells to genome damage and their relationship to cancer and other aspects of human disease.

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Last updated: Friday, 15 October 2010