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Researchers get $7.5M grant to combat nerve agents
Date:11/14/2011

A $7.5 million award will help researchers harness the body's own defenses to counteract nerve agents and create new types of antidotes for exposure to pesticides and other poisons.

The grant, from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), extends a previous grant and establishes a new Center of Excellence at Ohio State University, where chemists will collaborate with the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense (USAMRICD) at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.

At the new Ohio State center, chemists Thomas J. Magliery and Christopher M. Hadad will lead a team that employs sophisticated methods of protein engineering, high-throughput screening and computational chemistry at the university and the Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC). Their goal is to improve enzymes' ability to destroy a broad array of chemical agents inside the body.

Magliery is an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and Hadad is a professor of chemistry and associate dean in the Division of Natural and Mathematical Sciences of the College of Arts and Sciences at Ohio State.

"Dr. Hadad's research group is consistently one of the largest and most sophisticated user groups of computing cycles at the center," said Ashok Krishnamurthy, interim co-executive director of OSC. "It is gratifying for OSC to provide him with the resources that helped formalize such an important collaboration. Hopefully, it will lead to significant steps toward counteracting these toxic agents."

Nerve agents are chemicals that attack the nervous system, causing paralysis and seizures and ultimately killing the victim through asphyxiation. They do so by bonding with the enzyme acetylcholinesterase so that it can't transmit chemical messages from the brain to the rest of the body.

Once attached to the enzyme, nerve agents can't be removed, explained Magliery. So the researchers are focusing on ways to st
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Contact: Mr. Jamie Abel
jabel@osc.edu
614-292-6495
Ohio Supercomputer Center
Source:Eurekalert  

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