In current health lore, antioxidants are all the rage, as “everybody knows” that reducing the amount of “reactive oxygen species” -- cell-damaging molecules that are byproducts of cellular metabolism -- is critical to staying healthy. What everyone doesn’t know is that our bodies already have a complex set of processes built into our cells that handle these harmful byproducts of living and repair the damage they cause.
For example, few of us realize that, while our cells’ DNA is constantly sustaining damage from reactive oxygen species - as well as damage by other forces - there are also complex mechanisms that constantly assess that damage and make repairs to our fragile genetic material at least 10,000 times a day in every cell in our bodies. The vital biochemical processes by which this constant DNA repair takes place are still only partially understood because of their complexity, speed, and the difficulty of studying complex interactions within living cells. Moreover, it remains unknown how cells sense the oxidatively damaged DNA in the first place.
In an article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a research team from UNC Charlotte's College of Liberal Arts & Sciences announced that they had uncovered a previously unknown surveillance mechanism, known as a DNA damage checkpoint, used by cells to monitor oxidatively damaged DNA. The finding, first-authored by UNC Charlotte biology graduate student Jeremy Willis and undergraduate honors student Yogin Patel, was also co-authored by undergraduate honors student Barry L. Lentz and assistant professor of biology Shan Yan.
Juan Vivero-Escoto, a chemistry assistant professor in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, has received the 2013 Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award from Oak Ridge Associate Universities, a 109-member university consortium affiliated with Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Vivero-Escoto was among 30 recipients in a pool of 147 applicants from the university consortium. Only two faculty members per institution were permitted to apply. Applicants underwent a highly competitive peer-review process organized by the consortium among its members.
Vivero-Escoto’s research interests include the design and synthesis of novel hybrid inorganic-organic materials for biomedical applications. This award will support his research on the development of novel, silica-based, hollow nanoparticles as efficient platforms for intracellular protein drug delivery. This work aims to develop effective protein delivery systems, which are needed to enhance the clinical use of therapeutic proteins. Vivero-Escoto will collaborate with Sheng Dai, group leader of the Nanomaterials Chemistry Group at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, on this project.
More information on the 2013 Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Awards can be found on the awards website.