To flag neurons that have experienced genotoxic stress, researchers developed an in vivo sensor using an adeno-associated viral vector, called PRISM. Because a cell’s DNA damage response (DDR)—which activates in response to stressors such as environmental toxins or the buildup of misfolded proteins—also responds to invading pathogens, PRISM has an easier time transfecting cells whose damage response mechanisms are preoccupied with existing DNA damage. Once inside, the virus hijacks the neuron’s DNA replication machinery, which reverts an engineered frameshift mutation in the virus and thereby prompts the production of a fluorescent protein that can be observed via microscopy.
Infographic: DNA Damage Viewed with Unprecedented Clarity
A new genetic sensor called PRISM makes use of a host cell’s DNA replication machinery to trigger fluorescence in neurons with damaged DNA.
Infographic: DNA Damage Viewed with Unprecedented Clarity
Infographic: DNA Damage Viewed with Unprecedented Clarity

A new genetic sensor called PRISM makes use of a host cell’s DNA replication machinery to trigger fluorescence in neurons with damaged DNA.

A new genetic sensor called PRISM makes use of a host cell’s DNA replication machinery to trigger fluorescence in neurons with damaged DNA.

DNA damage response
Broken DNA
DNA Damage Viewed with Unprecedented Clarity
Amanda Heidt | Aug 15, 2022
A new tool called PRISM draws on virus-host interactions and a DNA repair pathway to help researchers visualize how cellular stress may contribute to neurodegenerative disease.
Abstract Genetics Disease stock photo
Bridging Disciplines to Study CRISPR-Induced Chromosome Destabilization
Aparna Nathan | Apr 8, 2022
A collaboration between friends led to a cautionary finding about CRISPR’s effect on cells.
Bacteriophage (green) attacking a bacterium (orange)
Bacteria Set Off Viral “Bombs” Inside Neighbors
Natalia Mesa | Mar 7, 2022
A study finds some E. coli can deploy a chemical called colibactin to reawaken long-dormant viruses inside bacteria, causing destruction.
illustration of a broken DNA strand
DNA Damage Makes Zebrafish Sleepy
Sophie Fessl | Nov 18, 2021
Buildup of a DNA-repair protein in brain cells spurs shut-eye in the fish, a study finds, and similar results in mice suggest the mechanism is widespread in animals.
Stress-Induced Chromosome Changes Protect Flies’ Aging Brains
Lisa Winter | Dec 1, 2020
Brain cells in older Drosophila tend to have more than two complete sets of chromosomes, and that polyploidy most likely has a protective function, a study shows.
PARP Inhibitors Are Improving the Outlook of Hard-to-Treat Cancers
Vicki Brower | Apr 1, 2018
With three recent FDA approvals, and a number of Phase 3 trials ongoing, the drugs are seeing a surge in interest.
Alcohol Damages Mouse DNA
Jef Akst | Jan 3, 2018
A byproduct of alcohol consumption causes mutations in the DNA of mouse blood stem cells, and some of the breaks are not repaired.
Noncoding RNA Helps Cells Recover from DNA Damage
Diana Kwon | May 1, 2017
Scientists discover transcripts from the same gene that can express both proteins and noncoding RNA.
 
Wrangling Retrotransposons
Andrei Seluanov, Michael Van Meter, and Vera Gorbunova | Mar 1, 2015
These mobile genetic elements can wreak havoc on the genome. Researchers are now trying to understand how such activity contributes to the aging process.
How We Age
The Scientist Staff | Mar 1, 2015
From DNA damage to cellular miscommunication, aging is a mysterious and multifarious process.
DNA Damage Scout
Andrew P. Han | Feb 11, 2014
Researchers are beginning to appreciate a role for RNA polymerase beyond gene transcription.
Brain Activity Breaks DNA
Sabrina Richards | Mar 24, 2013
Researchers find that temporary double-stranded DNA breaks commonly result from normal neuron activation—but expression of an Alzheimer’s-linked protein increases the damage.
DNA, Contortionist
Kerry Grens | Aug 1, 2012
The DNA forms known as G-quadruplexes are finally discovered in human cells.
Daniel Durocher: Change is Good
Kerry Grens | Jul 1, 2012
Senior Investigator, Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Age 40