Bo Stenerlöw – Radiation biology and DNA repair

Schematic figure of how double strand breaks can be repaire
  Schematic figure of how double strand
  breaks (DSB) can be repaired

Our research focuses on cellular and molecular effects of ionizing radiation. We study cells’ defence signalling and DNA repair mechanisms, with the goal that our research should lead to more efficient tumour therapy and fewer adverse effects.

Ionizing radiation is used in diagnostics and tumour therapy, and is an important tool in modern health care. During tumour therapy the cancer cells are killed mainly because the radiation results in acute damage on the DNA. The most serious DNA damage is double-strand breaks (DBS), where both DNA strands have been cut, which can prevent cell division. However, the cells, including cancer cells, have well developed defence systems that can repair most DNA damages. Our research aims to understand how the cells’ defence signalling functions and how different repair systems can be affected or turned off.

Factors that affect DNA repair

Microscopic image of an irradiated cell nucleus
Microscopic image of a cell nucleus
(blue) which has been irradiated
with gamma-radiation and where
the double-strand breaks are seen
as red dots.

The repair of DNA damage is fundamental for the survival of a cell and an increased knowledge about DNA repair mechanisms might have future clinical implications. The complex network of repair and regulatory proteins represent a rich set of potential targets to exploit in the development of more effective chemo- and radiotherapeutic strategies in cancer therapy.

In our research projects we study how the cell handles DNA damage in the form of double-strand breaks. We examine how different types of drugs affect the repair and we try to understand how different repair systems collaborate or compete. We also develop new techniques to study these.

In one of our projects we study drugs and inhibitors that make tumour cells more sensitive to radiation. The rationale is that if it’s possible to specifically make tumour cells more radiation sensitive it could result in an increased therapeutic effect, with fewer adverse effects and less damage to normal tissues.

Effects on the developing brain

Brain tumors are the most frequent solid tumors in children and the most common radiotherapy indications in pediatrics, with frequent late effects, including cognitive impairment. By using animal models designed to determine effects arising during critical phases in early brain development, we study effects of radiation- and drug-exposure on the developing brain. A better understanding of the effects and mechanism could form the basis for new clinical recommendations when pharmaceutical agents are used during radiation-exposure of the pediatric brain.

Read more about our research projects