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Molecular Biology

Cell illustration
Spring 2018

Gaining on muscle loss

Cancer, says Dan Rodgers, is a hellish parade of horribleness.

Cancerous cells multiply aggressively, interfering with the normal function of healthy organs. Tumors secrete hormones and other chemicals that exploit the body’s own defenses to the cancer’s advantage. Your body knows something is wrong, so stress hormones are released in an effort to inhibit growth processes and channel nutrients to the brain.

Deprived of resources, muscles begin to atrophy. Washington State University muscle biologist Rodgers, together with colleagues at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute in Australia, investigated treatments for tumor-induced muscle wasting called cancer cachexia. The research was so promising that Rodgers … » More …

NASA plant habitat
Summer 2017

Space farming

Surviving the challenges of deep space exploration could rely as much on botany as astrophysics.

NASA sees plants not only as potential food sources aboard future spacecraft but as natural oxygen producers. The space agency is preparing for its first in-depth study of how growth and development of plants is affected by gravity, or more specifically the lack of it.

“The overall significance is what it could mean for space exploration,” says Norman G. Lewis, a Regents professor at Washington State University’s Institute of Biological Chemistry and principal investigator for the NASA-funded study. “Whether it’s colonizing planets, establishing a station, … » More …

Summer 2017

On the surface…

Cancer, that malignant force that maims and kills as it rampages through bodies and lives, may have met its match in the person of James Wells ’79 PhD. Wells speaks quietly but with urgency. You have to lean in to not miss anything.

Wells is explaining that cancer’s derangement of our lives actually begins at the surface of individual cells. The complex chemical ecology of the cell membrane surface deserves its own term of art, so Wells dubs it the “surfaceome.” “The cell membrane is the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth of a cell,” he says.

Cancer cells, in order to avoid detection by the … » More …

Winter 2016

Your skin crawls

Skin.

Our interface with the world. When something goes wrong with skin, people notice. Scars, acne, a change in pigment. Wounds that refuse to heal and chronic conditions like psoriasis. When skin doesn’t behave properly, it hurts.

For over 25 years, molecular biologist Jonathan Jones has been looking for ways to help speed the epidermal healing process. As a child in Wales, he’d suffered from itchy red patches of eczema, an annoying condition that eventually got him thinking about skin in a scientific way. Recently, that interest paid off with the surprising discovery that skin cells “walk” during wound healing. The finding could provide new … » More …

On a mission to cure the disease
Spring 2016

Leen Kawas is on a mission…

…to cure the disease that took her grandmother’s life.

A scientific discovery that could lead to treatments for Alzheimer’s and cancer drives biochemist and executive Leen Kawas. For her, it’s a personal and professional quest to develop that discovery into innovative, affordable drugs for the millions of people facing those diseases—a quest that started at seven years old, when her grandmother got cancer.

At 30, Kawas ’11 PhD is one of the youngest biotech CEOs in Seattle and, as a woman from Jordan, one of the most diverse. In her first year at the helm of M3 Biotechnology, her small but rapidly growing company, … » More …