Even as she deals on a daily basis with the tiny details of DNA repair – a subject that was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2015 – Dr. Tamar Paz-Elizur is constantly aware of the beauty in the work that surrounds her.
After taking a sculpture class several years ago, Paz-Elizur was inspired to start a competition: the Beauty of Science. She invited all the members of the Weizmann Institute of Science’s Biological Chemistry (now Biomolecular Sciences) Department to take another look at the scientific images they were producing in their labs and find something new and interesting in them. The entries were turned into high-quality posters, and the winners were picked during the biennial department retreat. The contest has now become a biennial event.
The images produced under the microscope can be surprisingly familiar
The works have not been created for the sake of their artistic merit, but they present to the observer a view of unseen worlds. And some of the images produced under the microscope can often be surprisingly familiar. For example, an image from the lab of Prof. Ziv Reich could have been painted by Gustav Klimt, but the “naked woman” in this image depicts the “light reaction” system in plant cells that begins the process of photosynthesis.
In her lab in the Biomolecular Sciences Department, Paz-Elizur has played a key role in the development of a blood test that reveals the efficiency of three DNA-repair enzymes in the blood. Levels of the three, called OGG1, MPG and APE1, are an indication of a person’s risk of lung cancer. Today, those found to be at risk can opt for follow-up testing for early detection, but Paz-Elizur and her lab group hope to find substances that may, in the future, help restore the function of these DNA-repair enzymes.