Baldomero Olivera's Chemistry to Biodiversity project engages elementary school students in hands-on experimental science that encourages them to explore local biodiversity and cultural traditions. Olivera is adapting the module to be used in diverse educational settings in the United States and the Philippines.
Discovery of Natural Products That Affect Catecholamine Transporters
There is considerable pharmacological interest in compounds that affect the transport of catecholamines, since many drugs for disorders of the nervous system are based on increasing or decreasing the concentration of dopamine, norepinephrine, or serotonin. Only one compound has been isolated from the venoms of cone snails so far; this compound affects the norepinephrine transporter. This has proved to be an analgesic and is being developed by a biotech company as a therapeutic to alleviate pain. The fact that cone snails have a peptide that affects the norepinephrine transporter suggests that a broader survey of cone snail venoms may define novel families of peptides that target catecholamine transporters. The EXROP student will carry out assays on novel venoms and, after identifying the venom that has activity that affects transporter function, will work with a graduate student or advanced undergraduate researcher to purify the compound of interest and, ultimately, to validate the assignment of function through peptide synthesis.