Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship for Biswajit Pradhan

Pradhan studies cellular repair service for DNA damage

Biswajit Pradhan, a postdoctoral researcher in the group of Eugene Kim at the Max Planck Institute of Biophysics, has been awarded a prestigious Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowship from the Hessian Ministry of Science and Arts. In his project, he will investigate “emergency repair service” proteins that help to fix serious damages in our DNA. His findings could benefit the development of new medical therapies against genetic malfunctions, inherited diseases or cancer.

Text: Katharina Kaefer

The reproduction and evolution of life is based on the transfer, maintenance and successive modification of genetic information. In the form of DNA, the genetic material of living organisms is stored in the nuclei of their cells. A DNA molecule consists of two thread-like strands that are helically intertwined and connected in the middle – like a twisted rope ladder. Each strand is composed of many individual building blocks, the nucleotides, and both strands are complementary to each other. The sequence of the single building blocks results in a code that serves as the blueprint for our body. Specific proteins scan this code to translate it into physical characteristics and biochemical processes, or to duplicate DNA during cell division, which serves growth and reproduction.

However, this is not as simple as it sounds. Almost two meters of threadlike DNA molecules have to be squeezed into the cell nucleus, which is only a few millionths of a meter in size. Therefore, the DNA threads are coiled and compressed into X-shaped chromosomes that we know from biology textbooks. To enable the code to be scanned, so-called SMC proteins (SMC = Structural Maintenance of Chromosomes) disentangle and re-pack the chromosomes which sometimes leads to damages in the DNA. Not only such mechanical influences but also diseases or radiation can cause damages. The most serious ones are double-strand breaks. To prevent the genetic code from being lost, such breaks must be repaired quickly. Otherwise, this can lead to mutations or death of the affected cells and thus to serious diseases such as cancer. In his project funded by the Hessian Ministry, Biswajit Pradhan will investigate how SMC proteins act as emergency helpers to repair DNA damage. “If we understand the mechanism by which DNA is repaired with the aid of SMC proteins, this may help identify malfunctions in the future. New drugs could be developed to fix these defects and treat the associated diseases,” Pradhan explains. He will investigate the DNA repair process using an innovative combination of high-resolution light and electron microscopy.

About Biswajit Pradhan

Pradhan studied at the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay, India, and dived deeply into ultrafast spectroscopy during his Master thesis. His fascination for DNA was sparked during his PhD studies in single-molecule biophysics at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, where he encountered the super-resolution microscope technique DNA-PAINT. This innovative method uses DNA as a tool, offering a unique perspective on intricate structures in the cell. Building on his profound knowledge, he delved into the mysteries of DNA organization as a postdoc at the Technical University of Delft in the Netherlands. At the Max Planck Institute of Biophysics, Pradhan continues his successful postdoc journey, focusing on understanding how DNA organization plays a pivotal role in the repair of DNA damage.

About the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship Hesse funded by the Hessian Ministry of Science and Arts

As part of the successful state program Hessen Horizon, the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship Hesse supports the careers of talented young European and international scientists and enables them to gain research experience abroad by carrying out their projects in Hessen. In the funding period 2023-2025, the Ministry of Science and the Arts (HMWK) will fund two excellently evaluated research projects of postdocs at Hessian universities or research institutions. The program aims at making Hessen an attractive site for excellent scientists and internationalizing the field of research and development.

Further Reading:

On Hessen Horizon and the Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowship Hessen (in German):


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