Presented by Thomas Graham

The DNA inside one of your cells, if stretched end to end, would be about two yards long and less than 1/50,000 the width of a human hair. Your cells have been following the instructions in your DNA since you began life as a single-celled embryo, and they will continue doing so as long as you live. Unfortunately, your DNA is constantly being damaged by things like reactive molecules, background radiation, and inevitable biochemical slip-ups. On its own, this damage would quickly be lethal, but you are alive thanks to molecular machines inside your cells that repair DNA. In the first part of my talk, I will explain how DNA gets damaged and introduce these repair machines. In the second part of my talk, I will describe a method I’ve developed that allows us to watch the repair of single DNA molecules under a microscope. Finally, I will describe how molecular biologists have learned to cooperate with the cell’s DNA repair machines to make targeted changes in its DNA and even re-assemble whole chromosomes from scratch. I will discuss current and possible future applications of these new techniques for research, medicine, and biotechnology.


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