Troy, N.Y. An undergraduate student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has learned very quickly that a spoonful of sugar really does help the medicine go down. In fact, with his invention, the sugar may actually be the medicine.
Among the most important and complex molecules in the human body, sugars control not just metabolism but also how cells communicate with one another. Graduating senior Jeffery Martin has put his basic knowledge of sugars to exceptional use by creating a lab-on-a-chip device that builds complex, highly specialized sugar molecules, mimicking one of the most important cellular structures in the human body the Golgi Apparatus.
Almost completely independently he has been able to come closer than researchers with decades more experience to creating an artificial Golgi, said Robert Linhardt, the Ann and John H. Broadbent Jr. 59 Senior Constellation Professor of Biocatalysis and Metabolic Engineering at Rensselaer and Martins adviser. He saw a problem in the drug discovery process and almost instantly devised a way to solve it.
Cells build sugars in a cellular organelle known as the Golgi Apparatus. Under a microscope, the Golgi looks similar to a stack of pancakes. The strange-looking organelle finishes the process of protein synthesis by decorating the proteins with highly specialized arrangements of sugars. The final sugar-coated molecule is then sent out into the cell to aid in cell communication and to help determine the cells function in the body.
Martins artificial Golgi functions in a surprisingly similar way to the natural Golgi, but he gives the ancient organelle a very high-tech makeover. His chip looks similar to a miniature checker board where sugars, enzymes, and other basic cell materials are suspended in water and can be transported and mixed by applying electric currents to the destination squares on the checker board. Through this process sugars can be built in an automated fashion wher
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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute