The Morgan laboratory is interested in the long-term molecular, biochemical, and cellular consequences of cellular exposure to DNA damaging agents, in particular low doses of ionizing radiation. Radiation can cause cancer, and is widely used in the clinic to treat patients with cancer. Much is known about the immediate effects of radiation on cells and in exposed individuals. Specifically, the types of DNA damage induced and the repair systems operating on that damage, induced cell cycle checkpoint control, and apoptosis. There is less information however, on what happens to cells that survive irradiation and the changes that occur in those cell that can lead to carcinogenesis.
We have developed a model system to investigate the long-term effects of radiation in surviving cells. Our primary focus is on induced genomic instability in the progeny of cells surviving exposure to ionizing radiation. This instability may contribute to an increased rate of genetic change, and ultimately be crucial in multi-step carcinogenesis. Our goal is to understand the molecular processes that initiate and perpetuate genomic instability and determine the biological consequences of rearranging the genome.