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Office Hours: Dr. Dio Siegel

Office Hours: Dr. Dio Siegel

Chemist looks for potential drug compounds in plants.

Dio-Siegel-webWhat role do natural products play in drug development?

If you look at all the drugs that are out there, it’s about a fifty-fifty split between those that are derived from natural products and those that are synthesized through combinatorial chemistry. I prefer working with natural products because they tend to be more structurally complex, and they tend to have more of a predisposition to being biologically active and stable in a biological system, because that’s where they’re created.

What are you working on right now?

We just finished a synthesis of two compounds that are found naturally in the root bark of the Japanese Bigleaf Magnolia tree. The compounds have shown the ability to promote the formation of neural networks in rat cells. They also increase the biosynthesis of acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter that gets lost in Alzheimer’s disease.

What appeals to you about the process of synthesizing these compounds?

The ability to control molecular architectures is just fascinating. And though I’m not involved at the end stage of creating drugs, it’s nice to be able do the thing you love in the context of important problems.

Tell me about the Texas Shaman workshop?

Working with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, I did two weeklong programs for students from East Side Memorial High School and then Travis High School. The kids spent one day at the Wildflower Center learning about conservation and collecting plant species. Then they came to my lab and spent the next three days trying to isolate compounds from the plants they collected. It was a great experience. The students seemed to really enjoy it, and I was actually able to help place four of them on labs on campus, including two in my own lab.

Dr. Dionicio Siegel is an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry. He works on synthesizing biologically relevant compounds found in nature.

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Tuesday, 21 September 2021

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