The genetic apparatus underlying the susceptibility of a cell to ionizing radiation has become clearer, with the discovery of 107 new genes associated with this cellular response mechanism. This has wide reaching implications for identifying strategies to protect against the effects of ionizing radiation and designing novel chemotherapeutic agents.

A novel screen of mutant yeast identified 107 new genes that affect sensitivity to ionizing radiation. This discovery more than triples the number of genetic loci believed to play a role in DNA repair and related functions induced by radiation damage. More than half of these new genes appear to have a 'twin' in the human gene pool, and 17 of those have been linked to various cancers.

These genes may determine how well cells are able to survive exposure to radiation, and may even help predict sensitivity to other DNA-damaging agents, such as anti-cancer drugs. It is this ability to...

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