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Potsdam chemistry prof awarded $37K grant for research

01.08.09

SUNY Potsdam Assistant Professor of Chemistry Dr. Fadi Bou-Abdallah recently received a grant from Research Corporation (Cottrell College Science Awards) in the amount of $36,925 to fund his project title “Relationships between Iron and Hydrogen Peroxide, Free Radical Formation, and Oxidative Damage in Recombinant Human and Bacterial Ferritins.”

The Cottrell College Science Awards support significant research that contributes to the advancement of science and to the professional and scholarly development of faculty at undergraduate institutions. Along with several SUNY Potsdam undergraduate students, Dr. Bou-Abdallah will investigate the mechanism of iron deposition in ferritin and the role that this protein plays in alleviating oxidative stress due to the toxic combination of iron and reactive oxygen species in cells.

Dr. Bou-Abdallah’s research interests are in the general area of iron-protein biochemistry and are part of a major international effort to understand the role of iron in health and disease.

“Iron is an essential element where you can’t live without it, but you can’t live with too much of it,” said Dr. Bou-Abdallah. “It is a crucial element for most forms of life but at the same time presents a danger to the cell if it is not tightly regulated.”

To reduce the threat posed by iron, living organisms sequester iron with transferrin, a plasma transport protein that carries iron in the circulation from the gut to the bone marrow and other tissues for the synthesis of hemoglobin and other iron containing proteins.

The iron-loaded transferrin delivers its content of iron by endocytosis after interaction with its receptor on the cell membrane. Once inside the cell, iron is released and stored in ferritin, the major iron storage protein in the human body. By binding iron tightly, transferrin helps to avoid the formation of free radicals reactions catalyzed by iron.

These reactions are implicated in the formation of various cancers, arteriosclerosis, arthritis and liver and heart diseases. Transferrin is also the target of chelation therapy used to treat individuals with diseases of iron overload such as Thalassemia and Hemochromatosis, the most common genetic disorder in this country, affecting approximately 1 out of 200 individuals.

The uptake and release of iron by transferrin and ferritin is a key cellular process occurring during the normal course of iron metabolism.

“These proteins are important for the human health as body levels and forms of iron must be appropriately maintained,” said Dr. Bou-Abdallah. “Our research is contributing to the understanding of important structure-function relationships in these crucial iron transport and storage proteins and is generating new knowledge that is essential for the rational development of new treatments for iron overload diseases and other defects in iron metabolism.”

Over two years, several SUNY Potsdam undergraduate students will be involved in these projects. Currently, junior Adeola Awomolo of Bronx, NY, and sophomore Gustavo Gonzales of Santiago de Cali, Columbia, are conducting experiments with human and bacterial ferritin using a variety of analytical and biophysical chemistry techniques in an effort to understand how various ferritins from different origins accumulate and store iron.

Sophomore Banu Kandemir of Nicosia, Cyprus, is investigating how transferrin, the major iron transport protein in the human body transports and delivers iron to cells.

Dr. Bou-Abdallah and his students will publish the results of their research in peer-reviewed scientific journals. The preliminary data generated from these research projects have been presented by these students at various local, regional and national conferences.

Media contact:

Alexandra Jacobs Wilke, Office of Public Affairs,
(315) 267-2918