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'Death protein' research secures funding for UCF scientists
Date:4/8/2008

The marriage of computer modeling, biophysics and immunology has landed a University of Central Florida scientist more than $1 million in funding for her work, which could have profound benefits in the search for cures to cancer and heart disease.

UCF assistant professor Annette Khaled is conducting research into what triggers the death protein. The death protein BAX appears to annihilate surrounding cells. If its secrets could be unlocked and controlled, it could be a key tool in saving lives.

By identifying one of the mechanisms that leads to the fragmentation and ultimately death of the cells of the immune system, Khaled hopes to develop a peptide-based therapeutic approach that can be used to either stimulate the death of diseased or cancerous cells or protect cells whose inappropriate death causes heart disease or brain damage.

Khaled has put together a team of researchers at UCF with a variety of backgrounds to conduct the research.

The NIH is making an effort to foster interdisciplinary research, Khaled said because biomolecular research is so complicated. Teams, which use the strengths of a variety of disciplines to study cell function have an edge compared to those who stick with one expertise and traditional methods.

Biophysical approaches and computational modeling methods helped us see what is happening biologically, Khaled said.

When she arrived at UCF in 2002 she identified UCF biophysicist, Suren Tatulian, as having the biophysical know how to help her understand how proteins interact with membranes. UCF protein chemist, Thomas Selby, has the computational modeling skills that could help her design new biological experiments.

Together, the three scientists discovered that the occupancy of a prominent hydrophobic groove within the molecular structure of BAX could be the key to controlling the proteins lethal activity.

Khaled has studied the inner workings of BAX, a protein t
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Contact: Zenaida Gonzalez Kotala
zkotala@mail.ucf.edu
407-823-6120
University of Central Florida
Source:Eurekalert

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