Friday, Apr. 23, 2010 11:30 am


GRINNELL, IA—Research by Grinnell College Associate Professor of Chemistry Mark Levandoski and biological chemistry students may hold the key—a molecular “key”—to a protein “lock” leading to potential discoveries behind cellular “doors.”

A three-year $373,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will support the ongoing Grinnell research that studies a family of proteins in the brain which respond to nicotine and may also be involved in neurological disorders such as epilepsy and Alzheimer’s.

“We have demonstrated that there is a new ‘lock’ located on the nicotine-responsive protein that, to our knowledge, no one has discovered,” said Levandoski, principal investigator for the NIH grant. “By demonstrating the ability of a new ‘key’ to unlock and open the protein, we are suggesting a new place to look in pharmaceutical design.

“Nicotinic receptors in the brain are implicated in a wide range of neurological disorders but their role in nicotine abuse is arguably the most important from a public health perspective. Our research will contribute to a greater understanding of a class of drugs that can regulate the function of these proteins.”

The NIH grant, part of federal stimulus funding, will provide summer research stipends for Levandoski and his students as they continue their studies in biochemistry and electrophysiology labs in Grinnell’s Robert N. Noyce ‘49 Science Center. The grant also funds the addition of a lab technician for ongoing research support.

Approximately one-third of Grinnell students graduate with a major in science. Many continue into some of the top graduate programs in the country; in fact, Grinnell ranks 8th per capita among U.S. colleges and universities in producing graduates who later complete Ph.D.s in the sciences.

NIH funds studies like the Grinnell nicotine research project that support the advancement of knowledge to meet the NIH mission of extending healthy lives and reducing the burdens of illness and disability.

The project described was supported by Award Number R15NS070760 from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or the National Institutes of Health.

Grinnell College is a nationally recognized, private, four year, liberal arts college located in Grinnell, Iowa. Founded in 1846, Grinnell enrolls 1,600 students from all 50 states and from as many international countries in more than 26 major fields, interdisciplinary concentrations, and pre-professional programs.