Wayne State University

Wayne State University scientist named AAAS fellow

DETROIT—A Wayne State University faculty member is among the 503 newly elected fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) announced Jan. 11, 2011.

Christine Chow, Ph.D., professor of chemistry in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and resident of Detroit, was selected for distinguished research on the structure and function of modified nucleic acids, and for excellence in the teaching of chemistry.

Chow is leading a research team in developing a novel strategy to get an edge over bacteria’s relentlessly evolving defense mechanisms. With strains of some bacteria being completely resistant to every known drug, her team is working to create something new that isn’t easy for bacteria to resist.

Chow is focusing on ribonucleic acid, or RNA, a nucleic acid that consists of a long chain of nucleotide units chemically similar to DNA. Organisms from bacteria to humans and beyond depend on RNA’s functions, which makes RNA an incredibly useful target for antibiotics.

“RNA is more chemically and structurally diverse than other target areas and has an abundance of unique structures for an antibiotic to “latch on to,” Chow explained. “It is also more accessible than DNA and doesn’t have the defense enzymes that protect DNA, and comprises the physical structure of the ribosome, RNA-protein complexes found in all living organisms.”

By targeting the bacteria cell’s ribosome with compounds the bacteria has never seen before, Chow hopes to come up with ways to fight bacteria where resistance mechanisms take longer to develop.

Chow and her team are hard at work looking for a drug to combat bacteria. “Our hope is to find a lead compound, something that could potentially lead to an antibiotic or the design of other new drugs,” said Chow.

“Christine has always been a first-rate researcher, a great teacher and a very active departmental citizen,” said James Rigby, chair, WSU’s Department of Chemistry. “I am pleased that her efforts have resulted in this well-deserved honor. I speak for the entire chemistry department in extending to her our heartiest congratulations.”

Chow joined the faculty of Wayne State University in 1994. She received an A.B. in environmental studies and chemistry from Bowdoin College and an M.A. in organic chemistry from Columbia University, and earned a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry at the California Institute of Technology. She was a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology prior to coming to WSU.

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Wayne State University is one of the nation’s pre-eminent public research universities in an urban setting. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and throughout the world. For more information about research at Wayne State University, visit http://www.research.wayne.edu.