News Release

June 12, 2007

Contact: Kristina Goodnough, 860-679-3700

$2 Million Imaging Machine Approved for UConn Health Center

Farmington, Conn. - The Health Center has received a $2 million federal grant to purchase a sophisticated imaging machine to study the structure, stability and dynamics of proteins and their role in human disease.

The instrument, an 800 MHz nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer, will be used by researchers at the Health Center and Storrs campuses of UConn and by researchers at UMass (Amherst), Connecticut College, Dartmouth College, Wesleyan and Yale Universities.

“Proteins are not static,” says Jeffrey Hoch, Ph.D., associate professor of molecular, microbial and structural biology and principal investigator of the grant. “They undergo internal motions spanning many orders of magnitude in rate and amplitude. Nuclear magnetic resonance is a powerful tool for probing those dynamics, detailing both the extent and timescale of internal motions,” he says. “It is also a uniquely versatile tool for determining molecular structure and probing interactions between molecules.”

Understanding the three-dimensional structure of proteins is helpful for understanding their biological function and for designing biochemical experiments, says Hoch. Ultimately, the goal is to be able to use understanding of the structure and function of protein to design effective drugs or other approaches for treating disease. Researchers at the Health Center will use the instrument to investigate proteins associated with cancer, infectious disease and essential biological processes.

The grant is one of 14 provided by the NIH National Center for Research Resources High End Instrumentation Program, which is designed to provide essential cutting edge equipment to advance biomedical research and increase knowledge of the underlying causes of human disease. The program provides grants to support the purchase of sophisticated instruments costing more than $750,000. “These high performance imaging instruments and other advanced technologies enable both basic discoveries that shed light on the underlying causes of disease and the development of novel therapies to treat them,” says Barbara Alving, M.D., director of the National Center for Research Resources. “The value of this investment in advanced equipment is greatly leveraged because each of these rare tools is used by a number of investigators, advancing a broad range of research projects.”

The Health Center’s NMR Structural Biology Facility currently houses spectrometers operating at 400, 500, and 600 MHz. The new instrument will allow investigation of larger, more complex systems through its improved resolution and sensitivity, says Hoch. It is expected that the new instrument will be operational in 2008.

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