Our DNA suffers damage all the time-from cosmic rays, exposure to chemicals, simple wear & tear-and is constantly being repaired. But when something goes wrong in the repair process, says WSU microbiologist Cynthia Haseltine, “bad things happen.” Among the worst of those bad things is lymphoma, a cancer of white blood cells.
In a series of four brief video clips produced by Adam Ratliff and Cherie Winner for Washington State Magazine Online, Haseltine describes how she’s working to understand the process of DNA repair and the causes of lymphoma, with the help of a microbe that has an unusual lifestyle and an uncanny resemblance to Homo sapiens.
Part 1 – Not Just Any Bug: Archaea are everywhere, yet until a few years ago we didn’t know how special they are. Haseltine gives us a quick introduction.
Part 2 – Kin Under the Skin: The way Archaea repair their DNA is a stripped-down version of the way our cells do it. Haseltine takes advantage of that similarity, and the sturdiness of archaeal proteins, to figure out how damaged DNA gets fixed.
Part 3 – Top Model: How do you study a process that kills traditional lab organisms? Haseltine explains why a sulfur-eating archaeal microbe is her top choice for studying the mistakes in DNA repair that lead to lymphomas and other cancers.
Part 4 – “I Love My Job”: Haseltine reveals an essential attribute for any scientist: a sense of wonder.