A new method capable of mapping out the damage caused to DNA by cigarette smoking for the first time has been developed by Turkish scientist Aziz Sancar, the 2015 Nobel
Laureate in Chemistry, and his team from the University of North Carolina’s School of Medicine.
In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Sancar and his team developed a technique for mapping sites on the genome that are undergoing repair following a common type of DNA damage.
They then used that technique to map all damage caused by the major chemical carcinogen – benzo[α]pyrene (BaP), a by-product of burning organic compounds such as tobacco plants. Forest fires, diesel engines and BBQs can all put a great deal of BaP into the air, soil and food. But nothing gets it into human tissue more efficiently than smoking a cigarette, exposure to which can damage the reproductive system as well as cause cancer.
“This is a carcinogen that accounts for about 30 percent of the cancer deaths in the United States, and we now have a genome-wide map of the damage it causes,” Sancar said, adding that he hopes the study would raise awareness of perils of smoking.
“It would be good if this helps raise awareness of how harmful smoking can be. It also would be helpful to drug developers if we knew exactly how DNA damage is repaired throughout the entire genome,” he said.
“I’m certain that this information will lead to a better understanding of why certain people are predisposed to cancer, and which smoking-related mutations lead to lung cancer specifically,” said Sancar.