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Scientists from the University of Copenhagen have made a revolutionary discovery in the fight against cancer and aging – a new mechanism of how cells ‘remember’ their identity when they divide.

This new mechanism, called H2A-H2B mediated epigenetic memory, is key to preserving the genome structure of cells and can help slow down aging and counteract cancer.

The new study, published in the internationally recognized journal Cell, was led by Professor Anja Groth and Postdoc Valentin Flury at the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Protein Research.

“Once we fully understand this mechanism, it could help counteract cancer and aging. It is a part of the amazingly complex network acting to maintain the function of each cell in our body,”

— Professor Groth

By understanding how cells copy their information, we can make cells preserve themselves much better than we do now and be able to slow down aging and perhaps even counteract cancer.

Using an analogy, the researchers described the mechanism as ‘bookmarks’ that ensure each cell uses the correct combination of information to become the correct cell type.

Credit – Cell Journal

“We have identified the molecular basis for the post-it notes. Technically speaking, the identified mechanism helps maintain epigenetic cell memory during cell division. We have done it by showing that epigenetic information on histones H2A-H2B is locally and accurately transmitted during DNA replication and, later on, helps to put correct information on histones H3 and H4,”

— Valentin Flury

The next step for the team is to understand this mechanism in detail and describe its full physiological role.

“Before targeting or changing any cellular process, we first need to understand molecularly how it works. Here, we are laying the first bricks on the road to modulate how cells copy the epigenetic landscape,” said Professor Groth.

This discovery could be a major breakthrough in the fight against cancer and aging and could lead to further developments in epigenome editing and epigenetic rejuvenation.

Read more: University of Copenhagen

Read the study: Recycling of modified H2A-H2B provides short-term memory of chromatin states

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