A Dunedin Medical School research team headed
by Prof Antony Braithwaite has secured $2.4 million in grants
to conduct four investigations into why cells die.
The research will enable better understanding
One grant worth $900,000 from the Health
Research Council will enable the team to build a $40,000 "supermouse",
which will be used to study the tumour-suppressing gene, p53.
Other Health Research Council grants are
for $220,000, to study simian virus 40, and $800,000, to study
A Cancer Society grant of $400,000 will allow
the team to study drug resistance in p53.
Lotteries grants cover the balance and will
be used to study other aspects of p53.
Prof Braithwaite said the funding was "a
bit embarrassing" and work on p53 - "one of the most famous
genes in the world" - was highly competitive. At least 18,000
research papers have been produced on p53 around the world.
The p53 gene may prevent cells with DNA damage
from growing or kill them in response to the DNA damage.
The "supermouse" study would ask how important
p53 was in promoting cell death in a tumour.
The supermouse would not contain a piece
of the p53 gene.
"If that piece is really necessary, then
those mice will all come down with tumours over them. If that
piece is not necessary, they will not get tumours. If that
piece is only relevant to specific tumours, we will get mixed
Prof Braithwaite said. Another study would
examine how adenovirus killed cells. For a normal cell to
be killed, you need 30 times more virus than if you are a
tumour cell. We don't know why," Prof Braithwaite said.