How do cells read and interpret DNA to regulate life?

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Dr. Charles Danko is interested in how DNA, the basic blueprints for all living things, is interpreted by cells to produce living, breathing organisms. He also explores how diseases like cancer change these interpretations and impact health.

  • Understanding how evolution determines human and animal differences. The genes of humans, dogs, cats, horses, and mice aren’t all that different. Danko and his collaborators are studying the roles of “gene enhancers” in evolution. Gene enhancers are small parts of the genome that can ramp-up or -down the number of times a gene is transcribed into RNA and ultimately translated into the proteins that make up the functional differences between the animals.
  • How cancer cells use genes differently. Glioblastoma is a very serious form of brain cancer. To determine how to specifically target those cancers Danko and his team have studied the ways these cells turn their genetic instructions into action, by comparing them with normal, healthy cells. They have identified the several molecules called “transcription factors” that drive the out-of-control growth of cancer cells, information that can be used to design cancer therapies specific to each type of cell and its associated cancers.