Awards Database

Cottrell College Science Awards - 2014

Mary J. Sever

Barnard College

Iron and Copper Induced Alternations in MicroRNA Expression as a New Role for Metals in Neurodegenerative Disorders

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke estimates 50 million Americans each year are affected by neurodegenerative disorders, either as victims or caregivers, costing billions in healthcare expenses and lost productivity. Mary J. Sever, assistant professor of chemistry at Barnard College, is investigating the role of various ions – charged electrons— in neurodegerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheirmer’s. “It is only through a detailed understanding of the pathology of neuro degeneration that we can hope to develop preventative measures and better therapies,” she said. Sever and her students are looking at the role of ions of copper, iron, zinc and aluminum. All have been found to accumulate in regions of the brain most affected by neurodegenerative diseases. No one knows why. Sever is investigating the relationship of these metal ions to microRNA. These are small molecules that seem to control the function of larger RNA units. (RNA - ribonucleic acid - is a large group of molecules that helps to code, regulate and express genes in our cells.) Previous research has hinted that metal-ion neurotoxicity may be related to alterations in microRNA-regulated gene expression.

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