Link: University of Iowa

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Margaret Ketterer awarded 2020 Mary Jo Small Staff Fellowship Award

Tuesday, September 17th, 2019

Margaret (Meg) Ketterer, Research Assistant in the Wallrath Lab, was awarded the 2020 Mary Jo Small Staff Fellowship Award. The award is given to University of Iowa staff members to further their professional development. Meg will use the award to help defray the costs associated with attending the Allied Genetics Conference in Spring of 2020.



Congratulations Meg!

Sean Tompkins (Taylor Lab) publishes thesis in Cell Reports

Wednesday, September 11th, 2019

Sean Tompkins, a MSTP student in Dr. Eric Taylor’s lab, had his thesis published by Cell Reports. His thesis is entitled, “Disrupting Mitochondrial Pyruvate Uptake Directs Glutamine into the TCA Cycle away from Glutathione Synthesis and Impairs Hepatocellular Tumorigenesis.”

“Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) driven by obesity and diabetes is the fastest growing cause of liver cancer in the developed world and new therapies are needed to curb its growing burden. This manuscript demonstrates and helps explain how impairing the ability of liver mitochondria to use a glucose byproduct called pyruvate decreases liver tumor development. Using a mouse model of liver cancer, Tompkins et al. and Taylor discovered that liver-specific disruption of the mitochondrial pyruvate carrier (MPC), the protein complex that transports pyruvate into mitochondria, led to two thirds fewer tumors that were smaller and had a higher cell death rate. Using RNA-sequencing and biochemical assays, they determined that MPC-deficient tumors had impaired glutathione metabolism. Continued experiments using stable isotope tracing and metabolomic analysis demonstrated hepatocyte MPC disruption increases mitochondrial glutamine utilization at the expense of glutathione synthesis, which is critical for tumor development. These results identify modulation of mitochondrial pyruvate uptake as a potential strategy to prevent obesity- and diabetes-driven liver cancer development.”


Dr. Charles Brenner researches potential new treatment of a childhood brain cancer

Friday, September 6th, 2019

Dr. Charles Brenner, co-senior author in an article published in Nature Communications, may have identified a class of drugs that could lead to new treatment of a childhood brain cancer.

According to The Daily Iowan ,”the researchers focused on diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas, or DIPG, an inoperable brainstem tumor found in children. The team concluded that a specific class of drugs have the potential to kill mutant tumor cells.” The team made use of Dr. Brenner’s expertise in synthesis and characterization of NAD, the central regulator of metabolism, to specifically target this glioma.

“My mom taught me that life is not always fair–this is an example where an innocent child is receiving a death sentence in his or her first decade,” Brenner said. “We want to be able to do something for these children.”

Congratulations, Dr. Brenner!

Dr. Shelia Baker featured on KCRG

Wednesday, September 4th, 2019

Dr. Shelia Baker (Associate Professor, Biochemistry, Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences) was featured on KCRG. Dr. Baker is working with a group of scientists around the world in hopes of getting closer to finding a cure for blindness, specifically in older adults.

Congratulations Dr. Baker!

10th Annual Biochemistry Scientific Retreat Award Winners

Monday, August 26th, 2019

The Biochemistry Department held its 10th Annual Scientific Retreat at the Old Capitol Centre on August 24, 2019. Keynote speaker, Professor Craig Kletzing, delivered an energetic talk on the interactions between the Sun and the Earth. The retreat consisted of seven oral presentations and twenty-four posters from faculty, staff, and students. The best oral presentation from graduate students/post-docs, went to Chris Ball (Price Lab). In the graduate student poster category, Colleen Caldwell (M. Spies Lab), won first place and Julio Sanchez (Musselman Lab) won second place. In the post-doctoral/fellow poster category, Shivangi Inamdar (Baker Lab) won first place. In the undergraduate/research intern/medical fellow/scientific professional category, Rebecca Cupp (Geyer Lab) won first place and Margaret Ketterer (Wallrath Lab) won second place. Thanks to everyone who participated!

Congrats Summer 2019 Biochemistry PhD Graduates

Friday, August 23rd, 2019

Hannah Campbell, a Biochemistry PhD student mentored by Dr. Kris DeMali, received a PhD on August 2, 2019. Her thesis was entitled, “Mechanisms of E-cadherin Force Transmission.”Hannah is currently a Scientific Applications Specialist at Integrated DNA Technologies.

Lalita Oonthonpan, a Biochemistry PhD student mentored by Dr. Eric Taylor, received a PhD on August 2, 2019. Her thesis was entitled, “Two human mitochondrial pyruvate carrier mutations reveal distinct mechanisms of molecular pathogenesis.” Lalita is currently a scientist at Comet Therapeutics.


Congrats Hannah and Lalita!!

Dr. Charles Brenner featured in Noon News

Thursday, August 22nd, 2019

Dr. Charles Brenner, a co-senior author in an article published in Nature Communications, may have identified a class of drugs that could lead to new treatment of childhood brain cancer. See full article here.

Joseph Laird featured in Carver College of Medicine press release

Thursday, August 1st, 2019

A recent study led by Joseph Laird from the Baker Lab is featured in a Carver College of Medicine press release. The study entitled, “Rescue of rod synapses by induction of Cavα1F in the mature Cavα1F knockout mouse retina,” is published in Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science.

Dr. Arpit Sharma Publishes in eLife

Tuesday, July 30th, 2019

Dr. Arpit Sharma, a 2018 PhD graduate with Dr. Eric Taylor, is the first author on a paper published in eLife. The paper is entitled, “Impaired skeletal muscle mitochondrial pyruvate uptake rewires glucose metabolism to drive whole-body leanness.”

Metabolic cycles are a fundamental element of cellular and organismal function. Among the most critical in higher organisms is the Cori Cycle, the systemic cycling between lactate and glucose. This manuscript explains how muscle-specific Mitochondrial Pyruvate Carrier (MPC) deletion in mice drives increased Cori cycling and fatty-acid oxidation that contribute to increased energy expenditure. Sharma et al. and Taylor show that this increased energy expenditure leads to strikingly decreased fat mass with complete muscle mass and strength retention in mice. Additionally, acutely disrupting the MPC in obese, high fat diet-fed mice when returning them to a normal fat diet accelerated fat mass loss and metabolic recovery. These findings raise the possibility that modulating skeletal muscle pyruvate metabolism in obese and T2D patients may aid fat mass loss and improvement of whole-body insulin sensitivity.


Congratulations Arpit!!

Drs. Maria Spies and Ashley Spies receive a seed grant award

Tuesday, July 30th, 2019


Drs. Maria Spies and Ashley Spies received a seed grant award from the Center for Biocatalysis and Bioprocessing (CBB) for project entitled “Targeting RAD51 DNA repair protein for cancer therapy: development of a combined experimental/computational workflow.” The researchers are looking to initiate a drug-discovery campaign targeting human RAD51 recombinase, an important part in homology-directed DNA repair. This grant will allow them to carry out a fragment screen to identify RAD51 binders by SPR and to characterize the effect of the hits on the biochemical activities of RAD51.


Congratulations Ashley & Maria!!!