PULLMAN, Wash. — A newborn human consists of about 10 trillion cells and each cell contains the same DNA, or genetic material. Different regions of the DNA molecules are used to make different cell types. When cells divide, their DNA needs to be copied to pass on to the daughter cells. This copying needs to be very precise to maintain the genetic code of an individual, and errors in the code (or mutations) can cause numerous diseases, including cancer.

Dr. Michael Smerdon, Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics, at Washington State University, says that DNA repair is one of the first lines of defense against spontaneous and environmentally induced cancers in humans. “These repair mechanisms are required for the existence of all living systems, from bacteria to man, and are ‘molecular guardians’ of the DNA integrity. What is surprising is that the DNA in each cell is damaged (or altered) about 10,000 times each day just from normal metabolism (e.g., keeping warm or moving muscles),” he said. “This damage increases dramatically when we are exposed to external agents such as ultraviolet light from the sun, x-rays or cigarette smoke.”

NOTE TO EDITORS, REPORTERS:

Smerdon will be available for media interviews on Monday, Nov. 18, from 8 – 11 a.m., at WSU West, 520 Pike Street, Suite 1101. For broadcast media, b-roll (beta format) is available on Smerdon and his researchers. To schedule an interview, please contact Collin Tong at (206) 448-1333, ctong@wsuwest.edu.