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Science & Technology

Understanding How Our DNA Repairs Itself: Meet Nobel Laureate Aziz Sancar

Aziz Sancar is a professor at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine and 2015 winner of the Nobel Prize for chemistry.
Max Englund
/
UNC Health Care
Aziz Sancar is a professor at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine and 2015 winner of the Nobel Prize for chemistry.

Aziz Sancar grew up as a farm boy in a small town in Turkey. He was a bright child and attended medical school. He returned to his hometown and practiced medicine for a few years.

But even in his daily practice, Sancar had questions about how things worked on the molecular level.

He moved to the U.S. and enrolled in a Ph.D. program in Dallas to study molecular biology. Sancar began his work on DNA that would lead to a Nobel Prize for chemistry decades later.

He wanted to understand how cells could repair DNA that had been damaged by ultraviolet light. He discovered the mechanism and published the description of what is now known as nucleotide excision repair. 

Cells are damaged every day by ultraviolet light and carcinogens, but the nucleotide excision repair mechanism corrects the damage.
Credit Johan Jarnestad / The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
/
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Cells are damaged every day by ultraviolet light and carcinogens, but the nucleotide excision repair mechanism corrects the damage.

Host Frank Stasio talks with Dr. Aziz Sancar, professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine, about his life and Nobel Prize-winning research.

Sancar will speak at the Oliver Smithies Nobel Symposium this afternoon at 3 p.m. in the MBRB Auditorium at UNC. 

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