Exposure to ionizing radiation leads to DNA damage. This can have serious consequences especially during mammalian development because the developing brain is very sensitive to DNA damage. This is exemplified by many genetic DNA repair disorders as well as fetal exposure to moderate or high doses of radiation which can result in microcephaly, a reduction of the brain size which is often associated with intellectual disability. The extreme sensititvity of the developing brain to DNA damage is one of the main reasons why radiotherapy is in general not considered as a cancer treatment modality for pregnant women.
In our lab we study the underlying molecular mechanisms of radiation-induced microcephaly using (transgenic) mice and cell culture models. One of our main objectives is to identify novel genes that contribute to this phenotype, and to better characterize their function in the neuronal DNA damage response and embryonic brain development in general.