Thesis: Novel Activators of the Nrf2 Pathway: A quinone alone?
Majors: Biology, Biochemistry
What are your post-graduate plans?
As a recipient of an NIH-Marshall, I will be enrolled in a 4-year co-mentored PhD program. I will begin the program with two years in a lab at Cambridge and finish with two years in a lab at the NIH in Bethesda, MD.
Provide a summary/description of your thesis:
Working in the biochemistry lab of Dr. Aimee Eggler, I investigate how natural products can improve human health. Our bodies are constantly besieged by stresses, both internal and external, that target our cells and can impede our overall health. One of the principle ways our bodies mediate this stress is through a protein called Nrf2.
Certain compounds, including many natural products, activate the Nrf2 protein and have the potential to positively affect human health. Sulforaphane, a chemical found in broccoli sprouts, is already in Phase II clinical trials for use as a health supplement.
I am investigating a relatively unexplored type of Nrf2 activators, chemicals called quinones. One quinone in particular, made by a sea sponge found in the South China Sea, shows particularly high activation of the Nrf2 pathway at relatively low concentrations. My thesis work has focused on characterizing this compound and understanding how it can be used to benefit human health.
What motivated you to select this as your research topic?
I have worked in Dr. Eggler’s lab for two academic years and have benefited greatly from her incredible mentorship. This specific project emerged after we screened many compounds from our collaborator in China. We feel that this compound’s high activation could be beneficial for directing the search for new activators of Nrf2 and the development of novel treatments for human health.
What is the most interesting thing you discovered while researching/writing your thesis?
Discovering the high levels of Nrf2 activation in this particular quinone was quite exciting, as previous quinones were not known to activate this protein at such high levels.
How do you plan on using the information your research/writing has uncovered, and/or, what kind of change or attention do you hope that your research/writing triggers?
Dr. Eggler and I hope to submit a manuscript based on my research detailing our findings on this quinone activator of Nrf2.