Dr. Wang Awarded an NSF Grant to Study the Proteins Involved in Parkinson’s Disease

Dr. Wang

     The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded $199,878 to Dr. Chengshan Wang to elucidate the structure of α-synuclein aggregates.  Dr. Wang’s grant, titled “RUI: Determination of the orientation of 13C labeled specific residues of alpha-synuclein(61-95) in the pore structure formed on supported phospholipids bilayer by IRRAS,” will be funded for the next three years.  Although its specific function is not well known, α-synuclein is an abundant protein in the human brain.  One thing that is well known about α-synuclein is that aggregates of this protein are observed in Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.  The role of α-synuclein in these diseases or even the exact structures of protein aggregates is poorly understood.  Researcher’s lack of understanding about what causes Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s makes these diseases very difficult to treat. 

     Dr. Wang is hoping to gain some valuable information that could aid researchers combating Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s by studying the structure of α-synuclein aggregates using Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR).  FTIR is a technique chemists use to better understand the functional groups in organic molecules.  Dr. Wang specifically intends to incorporate carbon-13 (13C), an isotope of the more abundant carbon-12 (12C), into specific positions of α-synuclein.  Using FTIR, Dr. Wang and the students in his lab can then determine the structural characteristics of α-synuclein at the specific positions where 13C was added.  The Department of Chemistry is committed to addressing real word issues while providing students with cutting edge research opportunities and Dr. Wang’s NSF grant is a testament to these efforts.