Balmus Laboratory

SCIENCE


Understanding the role of DNA damage response in neurodegeneration


The Balmus Laboratory is interested in understanding the roles of DNA Damage Response (DDR) in mature neurons and its links to neurodegenerative disorders (including Alzheimer’s and related diseases) and aging.  

We are using a variety of tools including CRISPR-Cas9 screens in mature neurons as well as mouse models of disease.  

While maintenance of genome stability is important for all cells and has been implicated in an array of pathologies, it is critical for the terminally differentiated neuron that has no other way of protecting its genetic material but through repair. As such, the bulk of DDR syndromes present neurological features and loss of DDR pathway regulation is one of the first events in the ageing brain.

In the Balmus  Laboratory we are interested in understanding the mechanisms by which neurons deal with endogenous genotoxic stresses, their contribution to progression of neurodegeneration and ageing, and how to harness this knowledge to inform on key nodes that can be targeted to confer protection.

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Dopamine neurons (green) in a milieu of cortical neurons (red)


“We totally missed the possible role of ... [DNA] repair although ... I later came to realise that DNA is so precious that probably many distinct repair mechanisms would exist.” Francis Crick, writing in Nature, 26 April 1974