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Computer Models of DNA Lend New Insights Into Disease Diagnosis and Treatments

Spotlight On:

Stacey Wetmore
University of Lethbridge
Chemistry and Biochemistry

It has been estimated that there are more than 20,000 damaged sites per typical human cell at any given time, which can lead to mutations and diseases such as cancer if left unrepaired.

Stacey Wetmore, a Professor with the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Lethbridge, hopes to change that. Wetmore’s research is focused on understanding deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) damage and repair processes in our bodies in order to aid the design of new ways to diagnose, treat and prevent disease.

Wetmore's group uses WestGrid and Compute Canada resources to power sophisticated computational chemistry routines to understand the formation mechanism of lesions and the natural mechanisms in our bodies to repair this damage.

"WestGrid and Compute Canada infrastructure is vital to this work since large-scale computer models of biosystems require significant computer resources in terms of the important factors of time, memory and disk space," says Wetmore, a Canada Research Chair in Computational Chemistry. "The results of this research have the potential to impact Canadians by increasing our general knowledge of DNA damage and repair processes, which will allow the design of novel ways to diagnose and treat disease."

The incorporation of calculations into traditional studies of DNA lesions (which entails making adducts, incorporating them into DNA and biological testing) will also greatly assist clinical research by providing complementary information and aiding the assessment of the biological reactivity of toxic DNA adducts.