Tag: hyunshun shin
McMurry involvement in cancer research was showcased recently when student Heather Whitehead presented a poster on her research at the Undergraduate Research Day at the Texas Capitol on February 14, 2011. Texas Legislative representative for Abilene (District 71), Mrs. Susan King, stopped by to quiz Heather on her research. King, a registered nurse, was well prepared to discuss Heather’s project from an informed position. There were 81 posters from 53 schools at the event. Heather’s poster, entitled “Potential Anticancer Agents targeting Arginine Biosynthesis”, was one of three invited posters from Abilene Universities.
Heather’s research targets cancer, the second most common cause of death for Americans. An estimated 207,090 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to occur among women in the US during 2010. One of the most promising areas for the development of novel anti-cancer therapeutics is arginine biosynthesis. L-Arginine is the substrate of the enzyme arginase which converts it to orinithine. Ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) then produces putrescine which is a precursor of polyamines. Based on this evidence, the research team hypothesizes that ODC inhibitors will reduce proliferation of cancer cells. They will present synthesis of a 2-amino-5-(hydroxyimino)pentanoic acid (AHPA) and biological activity with MCF-7 cells (Michigan Cancer Foundation – 7). The growth of MCF-7 breast cancer cells in the presence of the compound AHPA appears to be significantly reduced. In addition, in the docking study of geometric isomers of AHPA oxime functionality, E isomer binding with ODC was determined to favorable over its Z-isomer. These results demonstrate that AHPA is a potent ODC inhibitor against cancer. Heather will continue to synthesize new ornithine analogs with various functional groups. Biological activities with different cancer cells will be investigated further. Dr. Hyunshun Shin, a faculty member in the McMurry Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, supervises the research. Dr. Spencer at the University of San Francisco has also contributed to this research.
Once again, students at McMurry stand toe-to-toe with those from the largest state universities in the quality of their educational and research experiences. Heather plans to attend pharmacy school upon graduation this May.
This Friday, the faculty of the Biomedical Science Program will meet for a retreat to discuss our first year of operation and plan for the year ahead. Attending will be Tom Benoit, Heidi DiFrancesca, and Gary Wilson from Biology, Paul Pyenta from Chemistry & Biochemistry, and Alicia Wyatt from Computer Science. Larry Sharp is on vacation and will miss the meeting.
In reviewing the first year of operation, many milestones suggest a rich and profitable future for the program. The first year saw over 20 students declare a BIMS major, mostly incoming freshmen interested in health professions or biotech. The new courses were very well populated. Growing publicity from the city fathers, The Development Corporation of Abilene, the TTU School of Pharmacy, and local biotech firm Receptor Logic helped to strengthen our position as the premiere life science/biotech training program in Abilene. Heidi DiFrancesca and Hyunshun Shin from Chemistry & Biochemistry have begun collaborating on a project to develop and test new treatments for breast cancer. And McMurry has seen the value in promoting these endeavors through funding for equipment and supplies to support the research-in-teaching approach used in BIMS.
I’m sure some time will be spent discussing the parallel development of the biotech infrastructure in Abilene, with a variety of support facilities (including the Abilene Life Sciences Foundation Research Accelerator facility) coming on line. Add to this the decision by Abilene Independent School District to start a new engineering/computer science high school this fall and you have converging efforts that point to a bright future. One of the tracks possible at the new high school is biotech engineering, which Dr. Jon Weidanz from TTUHSC-School of Pharmacy and I are promoting.
So what does the future hold? That is the reason for our retreat! I expect that we’ll see growing commitments to link our courses together and use our BIMS lab courses to conduct research. We’ll see BIMS-focused proposals for the lab renovation competition being held on campus later this month. We’ll see plans for research grants and programs to help high school science teachers learn and implement new methods, techniques, and equipment into their courses. We’ll see more articulation agreements with professional schools for pharmacy, physical therapy, and who knows what else! Clearly, BIMS is on the move and possesses the creative firepower to transform the sciences at McMurry. Thoughtful planning and staged implementation are keys to making that happen.
Check back in a few weeks as I give an update on the event!
Today I met with Hyunshun Shin, our Organic Chemist and Molecular Biologist Heidi DiFrancesca to discuss a research proposal the two are putting together. While collaboration among scientists is not unusual, I have to say that this partnership has some unique qualities. In the end, it may mean an exciting breakthrough in cancer research, productive research for the two scientists, and some incredible experiences for their students.
The project centers on a discovery made by Dr. Shin of a chemical that has shown activity against cancer cells. Though it has been proven to be potent, its toxicity has not proven to be useful (efficacious, I believe clinical folks would say). Still, previous work suggests the potential for a derivative of the compound to exhibit the Holy Grail of selective toxicity seems high. She will use part of the second half of the regular Organic Chemistry course she teaches to have her students synthesize derivatives for testing. At the same time, Dr. D’s class will test the toxicity of the derivatives against breast cancer cells and normal tissues. So, this represents students in two normal classes taken by all BIMS majors collaborating across class lines to work together in cancer research. Every BIMS major, then, will have participated in the synthesis and testing of anticancer drugs before their senior year in college. Somehow, my Organic class’s synthesis of isoamyl acetate pales in comparison!
Such use of regular classes as the stage for involving students in research is a strong reason for McMurry’s BIMS program to be recognized as one that represents the future of science education. Is this an approach you’d see at UT or MIT or Stanford? More and more, these cross-class connections will be used to teach our students through participation in science, rather than teaching them about science. We’re committed to science as a verb, rather than science as a noun!
Stay tuned for updates on how the Organic-Molecular Biology partnership is going, and on other collaborations as they develop.