Washington People: Richard Vierstra

As an 8-year-old, Richard Vierstra tried out 190 of the 200 experiments in “The Golden Book of Chemistry.” As an adult, he has taken on the much harder task of designing experiments to reveal the secret chemistry of plants.

The power of tea

A team of engineers at Washington University in St. Louis and their German collaborators say a compound found in green tea could have lifesaving potential for patients with multiple myeloma and amyloidosis, who face often-fatal medical complications associated with bone-marrow disorders.

Researcher Li receives American Heart Association grant

Weikai Li, PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has received a two-year, $143,000 grant from the American Heart Association for research titled “Mechanism of VKOR Function and Warfarin Inhibition.”

It’s not always the DNA

Scientists have mostly ignored mRNA, the molecule that ferries information from DNA to the cellular machines that make proteins, because these DNA transcripts are ephemeral and soon destroyed. But mRNA can be just as important as DNA scientists at Washington University in St. Louis say. They found that oxidized messenger RNA jams the cellular machines that make protein. The failure to clear the jams and chew up bad messengers is associated with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Washington University biochemist named 2010 Searle Scholar

Katherine Henzler-Wildman, PhD, has been named a 2010 Searle Scholar, one of 15 U.S. scholars in the chemical and biological sciences to receive the prestigious $300,000, three-year awards. The award will fund Henzler-Wildman’s research into the molecular mechanisms in bacteria that give them multidrug resistance.

Kornfeld receives prestigious Kober Medal

Stuart A. Kornfeld, MD, the David C. and Betty Farrell Professor of Medicine, has received one of the highest awards in academic medicine, the 2010 George M. Kober Medal, from the Association of American Physicians. Kornfeld was presented the award on April 23 during the association’s annual meeting in Chicago.

Heme Channel Found

Heme, a crucial component of the biomachinery that squeezes energy out of food, must be transported across membranes but without exposing its central iron atom to oxidation. Work at Washington University shows how it is done.