Cancer agent

Cadmium affects the genome

Published: Thursday 31 July 2003

cadmium disturbs the human dna repair system that is important to prevent cancer, shows a recent study. The finding is significant as many people are exposed to cadmium via cigarette smoke and contaminated water and food. Humans are also exposed to the harmful chemical while manufacturing and recycling nickel-cadmium batteries. In India there are regulations for lead-acid batteries, but no rules have been evolved for nickel-cadmium batteries.

According to the study by the us-based National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (niehs), cadmium causes mutations by inhibiting the ability of the cells to repair routine errors made when the dna is copied to make new cells. "In order to replace dying cells, they need to duplicate their dna. And during the replication process, lots of errors are made, which are regularly rectified by a process called post-replication mismatch repair (mmr). Cadmium affects mmr, which can lead to cancer, reproductive problems and birth defects," explains Dmitry A Gordenin, head of the niehs team. "The amount of cadmium needed to inhibit repair is remarkably small. We saw substantial effects on cadmium-related industry workers and smokers," says Thomas A Kunkel, another member of the research team.

The study, 'Cadmium is a mutagen that acts by inhibiting mismatch repair', deduces that understanding factors, such as exposure to cadmium, is a must to know the crucial role played by environmental factors in disturbing the genome's stability.

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