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SE Wisconsin Scientists Share New NMR Facility

April 29, 2009

Researchers in Southeastern Wisconsin

Get Access to Equipment to Study Proteins


The Medical College of Wisconsin received a one-year, $500,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Research Resources for a NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) spectrometer to help researchers study alterations in protein folding, structure, and stability. These alterations cause the mutations and dysfunctions that lead to most human diseases.


Brian Volkman, Ph.D., associate professor of biochemistry, is principal investigator for the grant. In addition to the federal grant, the Medical College has committed $250,000 in funding support toward the instrument, and $500,000 for the construction of a new NMR facility.


The NMR spectrometer can help identify atoms in mutated and dysfunctional proteins by measuring the unique magnetic fields that they emit; this will allow researchers to compare mutated protein structures to functional ones, and will aid in the development of more effective treatments for many diseases.


Biomedical researchers in southeastern Wisconsin will be able to study protein structure, mutation, and interactions, and will contribute to the understanding of a variety of human diseases. For example, NMR will help identify mutations and dysfunctions in diseases, such as ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), a disease degrading the nerve cells that control voluntary muscle movement; Tay-Sachs, a disease that causes neurological dysfunction due to fatty deposits building up on nerve cells in the brain; anthrax, a potentially fatal bacterial infection; and cancer signaling proteins.


The local need for NMR equipment by biomedical researchers exceeds the time available on the existing equipment, impeding potential development of cures for many diseases. Dr. Volkman is currently researching lymphotactin, a protein implicated in inflammatory diseases, such as Crohn’s disease; and enzymes that can cure anthrax and other antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections. The new NMR equipment will expedite these ongoing investigations and augment state-of-the-art computer simulations in the search for molecules that could become new drug candidates.


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