Many chemicals in the environment as well as other factors, including UV light and dietary exposures, pose a threat to human health by damaging DNA, which can lead to alterations in the genome or cellular functions that increase the risk of disease. Cells can respond by repairing or bypassing the damage site, or in cases of unrepairable damage, undergoing cell death. Damage-induced changes in DNA sequences (mutations), as well as larger changes in the structure of chromosomes, can increase the risk for multiple diseases, including cancers, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease.
NIEHS-funded researchers investigate how DNA damage and mutations increase disease risk and determine what makes some people more vulnerable to the adverse effects of environmental factors than others. Through NIEHS-funded research projects, researchers continue to advance efforts to detect, prevent, and treat environmentally induced diseases in which DNA damage plays a role. The NIEHS has also funded investigators who are developing new ways to evaluate the capacity in individuals to detect and repair DNA damage. The NIEHS continues to emphasize the development of tools and methods for measuring DNA damage and repair capacity, research on the mechanisms of damage tolerance, and studies of the associations between DNA damage, mutations, and disease. This work may ultimately be applied to the treatment or prevention of environmentally related diseases.
Daniel T. Shaughnessy, Ph.D.
Health Scientist Administrator
P.O. Box 12233Mail Drop K3-04Durham, N.C. 27709