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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Johns Hopkins: Study: A New Toolkit For Studying How “PARP” Activity Boosts Cancers

A new method developed by scientists at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health is likely to speed the study of an important biological process called ADP-ribosylation.

Adenosine diphosphate (ADP)-ribosylation occurs at high levels in some cancers, and drugs called poly ADP ribose polymerase (PARP) inhibitors, which block ADP-ribosylation, comprise one of the most promising new classes of cancer therapy. Yet research in this important area has been limited by the lack of laboratory methods for studying ADP-ribosylation.

The new method, described in a paper that appears Jan. 31 in Molecular Cell, enables scientists to fasten tiny beacons or chemical handles onto ADP-ribose molecules in order to study in detail how ADP-ribosylation affects cells in health and disease.

“The technique we’ve developed is simple, versatile and most importantly, can be done by any cellular or molecular biology lab,” says senior author of the study, Dr. Anthony K. L. Leung, an associate professor at the Bloomberg School in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology. “Our technique also saves time—one to two hours versus more than two days using the previous technique.”

PARP inhibitors are designed to target cancers that already have existing defects in DNA repairs. By inhibiting these PARP-mediated remnant pathways, cancer cells can be killed, while sparing healthy cells with functional DNA repair.

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