Superfund Research Program

March 2020

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) SRP Center researchers developed a new screening method that can detect a broad range of DNA damage in cells, including a common type of damage known as a bulky lesion. According to the researchers, this new method fills a gap in DNA damage testing and could make chemical safety testing faster, easier, and more accurate.

To test their new system, the researchers exposed liver stem cells to ultraviolet light, which is known to produce bulky lesions. After verifying that they could detect the lesions, they tested the system with nine chemicals, seven of which are known to lead to single-stranded DNA breaks or bulky lesions, and found that the test accurately detected all of them.

Technology A sensitive CometChip assay using specialized liver cells to quickly detect potentially cancer-causing DNA damage
Innovation The researchers previously developed the CometChip assay, an adaptation of the standard laboratory comet assay method that detects DNA strand breaks, but with higher throughput and better reproducibility. This new technology adapts the CometChip assay so that it can identify bulky lesion DNA damage. Normally, a cell will try to repair a bulky lesion by cutting it out and replacing it with new DNA. To capture this process, the researchers treated cells with two compounds that prevented them from synthesizing the new DNA to repair bulky lesions; this halted repair process generated unrepaired single-stranded DNA that was detected and measured by the CometChip assay.
Contaminant and Media The screen is designed to test any chemical for its potential to lead to a broad range of DNA damage.
Principal Investigator Bevin Engelward, Sc.D.
Institution Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Grant Number P42ES027707