Radiation inflicts serious damage to the DNA within our cells, which could lead to cancer. However, researchers have now found a molecule that triggers a protective mechanism in the body, which both repairs the damage and induces severely damaged cells to destroy themselves. The molecule called MDC1, which initiates this protection mechanism, was discovered by researchers at the Institute of Cancer and Developmental Biology, Cambridge. MDC1 is believed to play a key role in protecting us from radioactivity, as its inactivation, by a process called RNA interference, leads to accumulation of mutations to DNA. Researchers also believe that it would be useful to find out if MDC1 activity is more in people who are more resistant to radioactivity than others.
The new study would be useful in finding ways to protect people from effects of radiation during a radioactive accident or a nuclear attack and also help in making cancer cells more sensitive to radiotherapy, by knocking out the MDC1 gene.