The Hormel Institute Scientist Receives $1.3 Million Grant from the National Institutes of Health

The research could lead to new treatments for several types of cancer

AUSTIN, Minn. – Wioletta Czaja, PhD, Assistant Professor and head of the DNA Repair and Genome Stability lab at The Hormel Institute has been awarded $1.3 million in funding for a research grant (R01) titled, “Role of HELLS chromatin remodeler in genome maintenance” from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Czaja’s research will involve investigating epigenetic and chromatin-based regulation of DNA repair and genome stability.

“Maintenance of genome stability is paramount for human health. Defective or dysregulated DNA repair can lead to genome instability, a hallmark of cancer and other age-associated diseases,” said Dr. Czaja. “DNA repair occurs in the context of highly compacted chromatin, and chromatin has a profound yet not well understood regulatory influence on DNA repair.”

This project will investigate the role of the conserved HELLS ATP dependent chromatin remodelers in regulation of DNA repair and genome stability. HELLS has been implicated in many cancers including leukemia, glioblastoma, prostate, and hepatocellular carcinoma.

“Understanding chromatin-based regulation of genome stability is critically important to advance understanding of the molecular events leading to genome instability, and ultimately to facilitate development of new approaches in cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment,” Dr. Czaja said.

For this research, Dr. Czaja is collaborating with Rafael Contreras, PhD, Assistant Professor and head of the Genome Instability and Chromosome Biology lab at The Hormel Institute; Anja-Katrin Bielinsky, PhD, of the University of Minnesota; and Zachary Lewis, PhD, of the University of Georgia. The grant funding started on September 1, 2021 and goes through May 31, 2025.