Biological assays have dramatically improved in recent years due to the increasing use of living cells as "test tubes" for research studies. These cell-based assays have demanded that new technologies be developed for the life sciences in order to fully exploit the potential of designer drugs, stem cell engineering, and genetic medicine. The Allbritton Group is at the forefront of this technology development for biomedical and pharmaceutical research.
In the area of cloning for cancer and stem cell studies, the Allbritton group demonstrated a novel and effective approach for the isolation of specific, single cells from a population of cells. Using principles borrowed from the electronics industry, microengineered arrays of extremely small structures (30 â€“ 50 microns) termed micropallets are fabricated on the surface of a microscope slide. A laser is used to detach an individual micropallet and its attached cell from the slide whereupon it is collected. This strategy has been demonstrated for single-cell isolation with unprecedented survival and colony forming ability of single cells (>85%), thus dramatically improving the cloning process. This tool is now under development in an NIH-funded project with Mike Ramsey in the Department of Chemistry and colleagues in the Lineberger Cancer Center's Animal Models Facility to improve the process for creating genetically modified mice for medical research.
The Redinbo Laboratory uses the tools of structural, molecular and chemical biology to examine a range of dynamic cellular processes central to human health. Current projects include the discovery of new antimicrobials targeted to drug-resistant bacteria, the design of novel proteins engineered to detect and eliminate toxic chemicals, and the development of small-molecule to cell-based methods to improve anticancer chemotherapeutics. In addition, we continue to focus on determining the crystal structures of macromolecular complexes, including those involving human nuclear receptors central to transcriptional regulation, bacterial proteins involved in DNA manipulation and human cell contact, and enzymes central to key cellular processes.
Caitlin McMahon, a fourth year graduate student in the Alexanian Group, has been selected by the ACS Division of Organic Chemistry to receive a 2014-2015 Graduate Fellowship. Awardees for this highly competitive award are selected by an independent committee, and evidence of research accomplishments is an important factor in the selection process. Caitlin will travel to the 2015 National Organic Symposium to present a poster of her research.
Caitlin's research focuses on the development of metal-catalyzed organic reactions, with the goal of discovering new ways to form carbon-carbon bonds and expanding the methodology available to synthesize organic building blocks. More specifically, she has developed a palladium-catalyzed, intermolecular Heck-type reaction using alkyl electrophiles - significantly expanding the scope of the widely-utilized Heck reaction. She is currently studying carbonylative metal-catalyzed reactions, building functionalized organic molecules by forming two carbon-carbon bonds in one step under mild conditions.
In an article that not only made the cover of Protein Science, but also is a highlighted article in that issue and accompanied by an online video, then graduate student Mohona Sarkar in the Pielak Group, now a postdoc at Notre Dame University, and Professor Gary Pielak, suggest the reason why small molecules, called osmolytes, are used to overcome the effects of environmental stress.
Osmolytes are ubiquitous in biology. Given that dehydration stress adds to the crowded nature of the cytoplasm, the team speculated that cells might use osmolytes to overcome the destabilization caused by the increased attractive interactions that accompany desiccation. They used NMR-detected amide proton exchange experiments to measure the stability of the test protein chymotrypsin inhibitor 2 under physiologically relevant crowded conditions in the presence and absence of the osmolyte glycine betaine. The osmolyte overcame the destabilizing effect of the cytosol, a result that provides a physiologically relevant explanation for the accumulation of osmolytes by dehydration-stressed cells.
Assistant Professor Leslie Hicks has been awarded the Arthur C. Neish Young Investigator Award. These awards are given each year by the Phytochemical Society of North America to outstanding early career scientists. The young investigator chosen will present their research at the annual meeting as part of the Arthur C. Neish Young Investigator Mini-symposium. Leslie made her presentation earlier this month at the 53rd Annual Meeting in Raleigh. Congratulations, Leslie!
Francis Preston Venable Professor of Chemistry, Joseph Templeton, is the recipient of this year's Thomas Jefferson award, which was presented to him by Chancellor Folt at a recent Faculty Council meeting. "I would just like to add from my own chance to work so closely with Professor Templeton the last year how deserving and wonderful this award is," said Chancellor Folt.
The Thomas Jefferson Award was established in 1961 by the Robert Earll McConnell Foundation. It is presented annually to "that member of the academic community who through personal influence and performance of duty in teaching, writing, and scholarship has best exemplified the ideals and objectives of Thomas Jefferson." This award is, according to Department Chair, Professor Valerie Ashby, "a well-deserved honor for Professor Templeton that recognizes the many forms of his contributions to the university throughout his career."
Chemistry Professor and Chair, Valerie Ashby, was, along with Chancellor Folt and Graduate School Dean Steve Matson, one of the speakers as the Graduate School recently launched a program focused on academic success, professional development and degree completion for graduate students from diverse and underrepresented groups.
All three speakers highlighted the University's commitment to sustaining a diverse graduate student body and fostering a climate of inclusion and acceptance. Ashby, a faculty advisor for the program, said the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost has made a significant financial commitment to the program. The new program's co-directors are Kacey Hammel and Kathy Wood. They will collaborate with faculty, staff, students and administrators to create targeted academic and professional development initiatives contributing to the successful degree completion of each graduate student.
As described in Chemical Science, members of the Dempsey Group, in collaboration with the Meyer Group, used a layer-by-layer procedure to prepare chromophore–catalyst assemblies consisting of phosphonate-derivatized porphyrin chromophores and a phosphonate-derivatized ruthenium water oxidation catalyst on the surfaces of tin oxide and titanium dioxide mesoporous, nanoparticle films. In the procedure, initial surface binding of the phosphonate-derivatized porphyrin is followed in sequence by reaction with a zirconium salt and then with the phosphonate-derivatized water oxidation catalyst.
Fluorescence from both the free base and zinc porphyrin derivatives on tin oxide is quenched; substantial emission quenching of the zinc porphyrin occurs on titanium dioxide. Transient absorption difference spectra provide direct evidence for appearance of the porphyrin radical cation on tin oxide via excited-state electron injection. For the chromophore–catalyst assembly on tin oxide, transient absorption difference spectra demonstrate rapid intra-assembly electron transfer oxidation of the catalyst following excitation and injection by the porphyrin chromophore.
At the Department of Chemistry, we feel strongly that diversity is crucial to our pursuit of academic excellence, and we are deeply committed to creating a diverse and inclusive community. We support UNC's policy, which states that "the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is committed to equality of opportunity and pledges that it will not practice or permit discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, gender, national origin, age, religion, creed, disability, veteran's status, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression."