Chemistry Researcher Completes Fellowship In France

SOCORRO, N.M. January 6, 2010 – New Mexico Tech chemistry professor Dr. Severine Van slambrouck recently completed a two-month visiting fellowship in France.

Van slambrouck completed an intense series of tests to study the relation of cellular glycosylation to the metastasis of cancer cells. She examined 27 different genes, by isolating the RNA to further understand the processes at work in metastasizing cancer cells.

Severine Van slambrouck in her lab.

While many cancer researchers focus their efforts on genetics and gene therapy, Van slambrouck and her colleague, Dr. Wim Steelant of New Mexico Tech, are focusing research on the processes at work during metastasis.

“We’re not just looking at one thing,” she said. “We’re looking at the big picture.”

Human cells create lipids, proteins and sugars, some of which attach themselves to the exterior of cells. Steelant compared the outside of a cell to a bunch of trees, and these trees, the trunks and branches, are made of/consist of these lipids, proteins and sugars.

Van slambrouck thinks the creation of sugars – glycosylation – is different in metastatic cells than in healthy or non-metastatic cells.

“Cells that metastasize are disorganized,” she said. “We want to figure this out. We are identifying the molecules that play a role. We’re looking at the interplay of these molecules because it’s very complex.”

Ultimately, she hopes that her research will help medical doctors in many ways. First, if successful, her research could help doctors identify the characteristics of metastasizing cancer. That would be a big step toward identifying ways of preventing the spread of tumor cells, which is the most lethal aspect of cancer.\

Van slambrouck’s fellowship was a competitive grant through the UICC International Cancer Technology Transfer program. She worked at the University of Science and Technology in Lille, France, under the direction of Dr. Philippe Delannoy.

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By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech