Jul. 19, 2002 (Ivanhoe Newswire) — New research shows an enzyme that corrects mutations in genes could be a key factor in reducing a person’s susceptibility to diseases such as hemophilia, cancer and cystic fibrosis.

Researchers from Cardiff University in Wales and the University of Edinburgh in Scotland have found the MBD4 enzyme could protect people from gene mutations that can lead to diseases.

Different combinations of genes are expressed in different cells. For example, a different combination of genes is expressed in heart cells as compared to liver cells. Researchers say mutations in these genes can lead to serious diseases, such as cancer. They say, although factors such as cigarette smoke and dietary habits may trigger genetic mutations, a lot of gene damage is caused simply by the natural chemistry that goes on in the human body. When a mutation occurs, the genes stop doing their “jobs” effectively.

Researchers say one in three genetic changes or mutations that causes disease in people can be attributed to methyl-groups. Methyl-groups work to shut down genes, but in doing so significantly increase the risk of genetic mutation. Researchers have found the MBD4 enzyme attempts to repair the damage caused by methyl-groups before they cause harm.

Alan Clarke, a researcher from Cardiff University, says, “It is very likely the MBD4 is a key defense against self-inflicted gene damage in humans.” In this study of lab animals, Professor Clarke and fellow researchers found mice lacking the MBD4 enzyme are up to three times more likely to have genetic mutations. Authors of the study conclude, “These findings suggest that human MBD4 plays a similarly important role in reducing inherited disease and cancer.”