"If you want to study a conserved biological process, it makes sense to do it in a system where you can do all these genetic tricks," said Campbell of being able to create mutant proteins and manipulate such factors as temperature. "We have an excellent model for investigating the basic mechanisms of chromosome structural maintenance involving ATM, allowing us to study how ATM works in a meaningful developmental context."
Although a cure seems to be a long way off, using this system to understand more about how ATM works will offer more clues to treating the disease, said Campbell. "There are some serious efforts being made for treatment of A-T and what we learn may also make it easier to screen for known carriers," she said. "My hope is by fully understanding how ATM functions, at least we can look at improving the quality of life for those unfortunate to receive mutant alleles from both their parents. That's the million dollar question--how does ATM work, and we're slowly getting closer to understanding it."