Shi Group: for non-scientists
The genetic material inside our cells – DNA – is protected and organised by packaging into a structure called chromatin. In chromatin, the long string of DNA is wrapped around a series of ball-like structures made up of histone proteins. These histone proteins can be chemically modified in multiple different ways. The histone modification status and other regulatory factors can affect the higher order structure of chromatin – such as how tightly the DNA is packaged – that can in turn control how the genetic information encoded in the DNA is accessed and read.
We know already that cancer can arise as a result of incorrect control of genes. Our research aims to identify factors that regulate genes through chromatin structure in two types of cancer with poor outcomes: a blood cancer and childhood brain cancers. We hope that by understanding more about the cause of these cancers, we can develop new treatments that will improve patient survival.