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Humans lack a key enzyme found in many animals and plants that reverses severe sun damage. For the first time, researchers have witnessed how this enzyme works at the atomic level to repair sun-damaged DNA.
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Scientists were able to observe the enzyme, called photolyase, inject a single electron and proton into an injured strand of DNA. These subatomic particles healed the damage in a fraction of a second.
According to Physorg:
“[Researchers] synthesized DNA in the lab and exposed it to ultraviolet light, producing damage similar to that of sunburn, then added photolyase enzymes. Using ultrafast light pulses, they took a series of ‘snapshots’ to reveal how the enzyme repaired the DNA at the atomic level.”
Physorg July 26, 2010
Nature July 25, 2010 [Epub ahead of print]