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Welch Foundation honors Orth as 'rising star' in chemistry
Date:2/3/2010

gy, in 2005; and Dr. Patrick Harran, former professor of biochemistry, in 2007.

"Kim Orth has already made important contributions to our understanding of how bacteria cause disease and what proteins control signaling in the cell," said Ernest H. Cockrell, chairman of The Welch Foundation. "Her creative, innovative and collaborative research tackles critical questions affecting humankind and lays a solid foundation for building new knowledge. We are pleased to salute her contributions as a young researcher and look forward to further advances from her lab."

Dr. Orth's studies also have uncovered previously unknown mechanisms human cells use to carry out normal functions. For example, she found that an infectious ocean-dwelling bacterium found in oysters and other shellfish kills its host's cells by causing them to burst, providing the invader with a nutrient-rich meal that can then be used to fuel proliferation. The invading pathogen overtakes the host's autophagy, or "self-eating" machinery, a process that is usually tightly controlled.

Understanding how this bacterium commandeers that process led to the discovery of an entirely new way that ATP a molecule that helps provide energy to our cells can alter other molecules. The modification process, which the bacterium exploits in its cell-smashing rampage, is so novel that Dr. Orth's research team created a new name for it: AMPylation.

"There is so much more to learn about the most fundamental mechanisms of life. Investing in basic research now pays dividends decades into the future," Dr. Orth said. "I am incredibly honored to be selected for this award, and I want The Welch Foundation to know how much I appreciate its support for basic science."

Dr. Orth studied psychology at Texas A&M University, but discovered a love for laboratory science after completing a molecular genetics course proctored by Dr. James Wild. She graduated with a degree in biochemistry, and then ea
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Contact: Amanda Siegfried
amanda.siegfried@utsouthwestern.edu
214-648-3404
UT Southwestern Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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