Until they moved to the University of Cambridge in 2017, the Signatures of mutagenesis in somatic cells group explored patterns of mutations or signatures that arise in human cells to understand how DNA damage and DNA repair processes contribute towards aging and cancer.
The DNA in our cells can become damaged due to wear and tear from within our cells and can be damaged by the environment, for example ultraviolet-radiation from the sun. We have a DNA repair toolkit that fixes most of this damage. However, any damage that is not repaired, or is repaired badly, can lead to permanent changes to the genetic code (known as mutations). The group studied the patterns of mutations - or 'signatures' - that build up in DNA to understand how and why they cause health problems such as cancer, brain diseases and aging.