Daniel Fologea, assistant professor of biophysics at Boise State University, was recently awarded the prestigious CAREER award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Biomaterials program to assist in his research regarding earthworms and a potential cure for cancer.
Fologea has received a five-year, $505,000 payout to put toward his research, in which he is using lysenin protein.
The project is "single molecule characterization and controlled transport using lysenin channels inserted into lipid membranes." It incorporates several aspects of science, including biology, math, physics and engineering. Protein is inserted into lipid membranes, creating nano-sized passages for electrical currents to produce changes in the flow. Then, watching the changes gives researchers a means to detect even a single molecule that might be identified as cancer.
The reason for using earthworms is due to the fact that the pores in the lysenin proteins from worms are larger than those from other sources, which gives researchers the ability to see larger molecules. The idea, says Fologea, is to use this system to inject drugs directly into tumors where they can be released in "a highly controlled manner by manipulating their opening and closing."
The project also allows for robust educational outreach, inviting undergraduate, graduate and even high school students to assist through a summer program or year-round tutoring and interactive program.
Located in Boise, Idaho, Boise State University was founded in 1932 by Episcopal Church and has 22,259 students.
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