COSAM » News » Articles » 2018 » August » COSAM Faculty Receives $650,000 NSF CAREER Award to Develop New Method to Detect Protein Modifications Impacting Diseases such as Cancer

COSAM Faculty Receives $650,000 NSF CAREER Award to Develop New Method to Detect Protein Modifications Impacting Diseases such as Cancer

Published: 08/14/2018

By: Maria Gebhardt

A particular modification in cells can directly lead to diseases such as cancer and diabetes.  A researcher at Auburn University is seeking to find a method to detect this modification early on and keep these diseases from progressing.

Dr. Monika Raj is an Assistant Professor in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department in the College of Sciences and Mathematics (COSAM).  She is the recipient of a $650,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) Grant: Secondary Amine Selective Petasis.  The NSF funding programs include the Chemistry of Life Processes and EPSCoR co-funding.

Her research in the Raj Lab will focus on the chemical labeling method that detects the proteins with modifications and enzymes responsible for such modifications.  She uses innovative chemical reactions for visualizing biomolecules and adds a probe or dye that show the proteins with these modifications. The major challenge is to develop a chemical method that selectively labels a specific modification on biomolecules in the presence of sea of other similar functional groups.

“Currently, there are no other chemical methods to determine the proteins with these specific modifications,” explains Dr. Raj. “This research could change the knowledge gap of which protein is undergoing a modification and what enzymes lead to a modification.” 

Once these proteins have been detected, medications can be designed to inhibit the protein or prevent the progression, ultimately stopping the disease. 

Raj will collaborate with other colleges at Auburn University for her research including the Harrison School of Pharmacy to further conduct her research on various cancer cell lines.  This will allow her to test her research in a prominent pharmacy right on campus. 

This research will also help to increase science education for high school students through sharing fundamentals of this project with engaging activities. 

 

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