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Yinsheng Wang

Professor of Chemistry
Yinsheng Wang
Understanding DNA Repair to Develop New Cancer Treatments
Focusing on combining chemistry and biology tools to understand the biological consequences of DNA damage, how DNA damage is repaired, and how it compromises the flow of genetic information, research development in lab of UC Riverside’s Yinsheng Wang could lead to development of new and effective drugs to treat cancer. Wang is the Director of the Environmental Toxicology Graduate Program and was named the winner of the inaugural Chemical Research in Toxicology Young Investigator Award and 2013 Biemann Medal.

Areas of Expertise

Select Honors and Distinctions

  • Director, Environmental Toxicology Graduate Program
  • Chemical Research in Toxicology Young Investigator Award (2012)
  • Biemann Medal (2013)
  • AAAS Fellow (2012)
  • ASMS Research Award (2005)


Q: What do your research findings tell us about DNA damage?
Our research findings show that damaged DNA–even though it's repaired–can accumulate at appreciable levels in tissue and cells, compromising the efficiency of DNA replication and transcription, and leading to mutations in the human genome.

Q: How is cancer related to DNA repair?
When damaged DNA is not repaired, our cells still replicate our DNA during the cell division process, introducing mistakes or mutations. If mutations are created in critical genes, it can potentially lead to cancer development.
Damage to DNA can not only give rise to cancer but it can also lead to the development of other human diseases such as diabetic complications and neurological diseases. In those situations, the damaged DNA may not produce mutations during DNA replication; however, they may block the DNA replication process, affecting cell division, or block the cell transcription process so that cells cannot survive, leading to tissue loss or tissue degeneration.

Q: How has your research helped in understanding how DNA can be repaired?
By combining HPLC with mass spectrometry as a quantitative tool, in combination with the use of genetic approaches for depleting DNA repair genes, we have been able to elucidate the roles of specific DNA repair genes in the removal of specific DNA lesions.

Q: Does your research play a role in the notion of developing more personalized treatments for cancer?
Yes, because genetic polymorphism or individual difference in DNA repair is well known to be associated with tumor development and treatment. Understanding the fundamental mechanisms of DNA repair will provide a basis for designing personalized medicine for cancer prevention and treatment.
Many anti-cancer drugs cure tumor cells by damaging DNA, so understanding the fundamental aspects of DNA repair provides an important basis for designing better drugs for cancer treatment. And, if we can inhibit DNA repair in the meantime while we treat patients with DNA damage agents, it may enhance the efficacy of cancer treatment.

Q: How is your research supported?
The National Institutes of Health have interest in our efforts because exposure to environmental agents can lead to DNA damage and because DNA damage and repair are closely associated with many human diseases including cancer, diabetic complications and neurological diseases. Our research has been funded by National Cancer Institute, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Q: What is next for your research?
We are trying to understand the implications of DNA damage in many other human diseases and we're working hard to identify useful bio-markers for the diagnosis of cancer and other human diseases.

Q: What does Living the Promise mean to you?
Living the Promise to me is about the opportunity we have to explain to the public the basis and importance of our research.

Q: What is it about UC Riverside that makes it a great place to do research?
UCR provides outstanding facilities and access to graduate students with strong training in chemistry and biological sciences.

Q: In your spare time, what are you reading?
I like reading the headlines of New York Times and listening to NPR news. In this way, I keep myself informed about what's going on around the world.  I also like to read the Cartoons section of New York Times, and I find that to be quite relaxing.

Q: How do your students inspire you?
Students inspire me when they come up with their own ideas about a new research problem or when they think about a research problem in a different way.

Q: What advice do you have for students graduating in the next five years?
Always keep eyes open to new research problems and novel experimental approaches.

Yinsheng Wang “Understanding the fundamental aspects of DNA repair provides an important basis for designing better drugs for cancer treatment.”

—Yinsheng Wang
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