September 15, 2006

Iverson lands New Scholars Award

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Tina Iverson, Ph.D.

Iverson lands New Scholars Award

Tina Iverson, Ph.D., assistant professor of Pharmacology and Biochemistry, has received a New Scholars Award in Aging from the Ellison Medical Foundation.

The award, which provides funding of up to $50,000 per year for a four-year period, will support Iverson's research on the role of a protein called mitochondrial complex II in aging-related diseases like Huntington's disease and cancer.

Complex II resides in the mitochondria, sub-cellular compartments that act as the “energy factories” of cells. Mitochondria take electrons from the food we eat and the oxygen we breathe to generate the chemical energy required by our cells.

But this oxygen can also form harmful “reactive oxygen species,” byproducts of metabolism that can damage DNA and proteins and are implicated in the aging process and a number of diseases.

Iverson hopes to investigate the contribution of mitochondrial complex II in generating these reactive oxygen species and its role in aging-related diseases. Ultimately, a better understanding of how complex II functions could aid in the design of novel therapeutics that decrease reactive oxygen species and improve the quality of life as we age, Iverson said.

Iverson received her doctorate in Biochemistry from the California Institute of Technology in 2000 and joined the Vanderbilt faculty in January 2005. During her graduate and post-doctoral studies, Iverson worked with some of the leading crystallographers in the field and solved a number of important protein structures.

“Dr. Iverson specializes in coaxing membrane proteins to crystallize, and dealing with marginal diffraction data to obtain the best possible information out of her crystals,” said Heidi Hamm, Ph.D., chair of Pharmacology. “This allows her to ‘see’ the structures of membrane proteins, which are very often pharmacologically relevant, insight which could be used in the future in drug discovery.

“The New Scholars Award is richly deserved and will facilitate her progress in understanding the mechanisms of oxidative damage in cells.”

The Ellison Medical Foundation is a non-profit philanthropic organization that supports basic biomedical research on the aging processes and age-related diseases and disabilities. Through its grants program, the foundation seeks to stimulate creative research unlikely to be funded by traditional sources.

The New Scholar awards provide support for newly independent investigators in establishing their own labs and collecting preliminary data that will help them later obtain support from other sources.