Three Butler University professors have been awarded grants to fund their research projects.

-Alexandre Erkine, associate professor of molecular biology and pharmaceutical sciences in the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, will receive $60,088 over two years from the National Institutes of Health to research “Selective Inhibitors of Human HSF2.”

Alexandre ErkineErkine said investigation of these compounds may promote new drug development as well as understanding of cellular processes on the molecular level.

He explains the research this way: “The word ‘chaperone’ took hold in molecular biology long time ago. Molecular chaperones are helping other molecules, primarily proteins, to maintain proper shape. Function or malfunction of molecular chaperones is implicated in multiple diseases including cancer, neurodegenerative disorders such as Huntington’s, and Parkinson’s and diabetes. Development of new drug leads, i.e. compounds affecting molecular chaperones, is a rapidly developing area of modern pharmacology. The compounds we are interested in, are those affecting (i.e. turning on or off) genes expressing molecular chaperones.”

-Priscilla Ryder, assistant professor of pharmacy practice, has received $14,435 from the Indiana Minority Health Coalition to exploration of how older (ages 50-plus) African American women living in medically underserved areas of Indianapolis think of health. The grant is a collaboration of Ryder, the Indiana Minority Health Coalition and the Black Nurses Association of Indianapolis.

Pricilla RyderThe study has three aims: to determine how the women define “health,” how the women assess health – their own as well as the health statuses of family and friends – and how the women think about the determinants of health, such as what things in their lives and environment positively or negatively affect their health status and how their life experiences affect their own health.

The focus groups were conducted last month. Ryder said she will be analyzing the responses and sending the project report to the Indiana Minority Health Coalition by mid-June.

-Jeremy Johnson, assistant professor of chemistry in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has received a $2,381 from the Indiana Academy of Science to fund his project, “Determining the substrate specificity of ester hydrolases from Mycobacterium tuberculosis.”

Jeremy JohnsonJohnson and his students will study the activity of enzymes essential to the survival of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes tuberculosis.

“Over one-third of the world’s population is estimated to be infected with tuberculosis,” Johnson said. “The bacterium can quietly survive within a patient’s lungs by using enzymes known as ester hydrolases to break down the host cell components for energy and to evade the host immune system. For this grant, we will be characterizing the unique chemical structures that each of these ester hydrolases recognizes with the goal of designing diagnostics and inhibitors based on these unique structures.”

Johnson said the work from this grant ties directly into recently received National Science Foundation support and expands the classroom work into new applied scientific directions.

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