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Two Molecular Biologists Receive Early Career Research Awards

Two Molecular Biologists Receive Early Career Research Awards

​Two new UT Austin assistant professors in the Department of Molecular Biosciences have each been awarded highly competitive early career research awards.

Xiaolu "Lulu" Cambronne, who joins the UT Austin faculty in January 2018, received a $2.3 million New Innovator Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The award was established in 2007 to support early-career investigators conducting high-risk, high-impact biomedical research.

Cambronne was one of 55 New Innovators selected from across the country. She will study an energy-related molecule in cells whose quantities may affect peoples' risk of developing diabetes or other conditions as they age.

Daniel Dickinson, who joined the UT Austin faculty this fall, was awarded a $2 million award from the First-Time, Tenure-Track Faculty Members program created by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT). The program recruits emerging investigators pursuing their first faculty appointment who have the ability to make outstanding contributions to the field of cancer research.

Dickinson's research examines the molecular mechanisms of cell polarization, a basic property of animal cells. Most cells in the body must polarize in order to function normally; a disruption in this polarity can often result in human diseases, especially cancer.

He has developed a unique, interdisciplinary approach that combines single-molecule microscopy, targeted genome editing, biochemistry and fluorescence imaging of living cells to study protein dynamics during cell polarization.

Cambronne will apply her grant to study a metabolite called NAD+ (oxidized nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide), which has been hypothesized to play a role in the onset of age-related diseases such as neurodegenerative disorders, cardiovascular diseases and Type II diabetes.

Current research has suggested that pathways necessary to maintain health might start faltering when there is less NAD+, which is considered a linchpin for the body's energy metabolism. She and her team recently developed a DNA-based fluorescent biosensor to the metabolite to monitor NAD+ concentrations with spatial and temporal resolution.

"These measurements can help us determine how changes in NAD+ availability may be affected by age," Cambronne said. "Because age is a major risk factor in so many diseases, our work has the potential to have very broad impacts."

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Saturday, 18 September 2021

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