John Murnane

Sectors: Longevity Legends, Science and Academia.

John Murnane’s interests are the study of the mechanisms of DNA damage, DNA repair, and chromosome instability, and their relationship to cancer. His early work was the first to demonstrate that cell cycle regulation is important in protecting cells against DNA damage (Nature 285:326, 1980). His work was also the first to demonstrate that human cells can become immortal by maintaining telomeres through a process other than telomerase, and to propose that this mechanism involves recombination (EMBO J 13:4953, 1994). Telomeres are the caps on the ends of chromosomes, and acquiring the ability to maintain telomeres is an important step in cancer progression. His laboratory was also the first to establish a model system to demonstrate the ability of mammalian cells to stabilize broken chromosomes through the addition of new telomeres, called chromosome healing (PNAS 96:6781, 1999). He is currently investigating whether the regulation of chromosome healing can be used as a method for preventing chromosome instability in cancer cells, and selectively sensitize cancer cells to ionizing radiation. More recently his work has demonstrated that regions near telomeres are highly sensitive to DNA double-strand breaks, and has proposed that this sensitivity of telomeric regions to DNA double-strand breaks is an important factor in chromosome instability, which is important in tumor cell progression and resistance to classical and targeted therapies (Cancer Res 70:4255, 2010). His laboratory is now involved in the analysis of the mechanisms and proteins responsible for the sensitivity of telomeric regions to DNA double strand breaks, and how this sensitivity can be exploited to prevent chromosome instability or selectively kill cancer cells demonstrating chromosome instability.