CSUF Professor Named Vice Chair, U.S. Committee for Crystallography
Katherine Kantardjieff, director of Cal State Fullerton's W.M. Keck Foundation Center for Molecular Structure and professor of chemistry and biochemistry, has been selected to serve a three-year term as vice chair of the U.S. National Committee for Crystallography.
The organization promotes interaction and the sharing of resources among crystallographers worldwide. The National Science Foundation provides funding for the committee.
"Through her role as director of the W. M. Keck Foundation Center for Molecular Structure at CSUF, Katherine Kantardjieff has contributed her expertise in crystallographic tools and computational modeling to assist numerous scientists throughout the nation and beyond in their research," said Steven Murray, dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. "Her appointment as vice chair of the U.S. National Committee for Crystallography is a reflection of her outstanding professional reputation and a tribute to the university."
Crystallography, the study of molecular structure, uses X-ray diffraction to derive the configuration of large molecules, such as proteins. The arrangement of many molecules is unknown, and it remains a mystery how toxins penetrate thick cell walls to cause disease.
"When a molecule is X-rayed, the light bouncing off the crystal forms a unique pattern of scattered spots," explained Kantardjieff. By using mathematical calculations and specialized computer software, the pattern is analyzed and interpreted. The resulting model of the molecule is displayed three-dimensionally on the monitor.
"I have been working in this field for nearly 25 years, and I still get excited when I see a new structure of a molecule," said Kantardjieff, a Fullerton resident. "By determining the structure of a protein, we can understand how it functions and interacts with other molecules."
Such information assists scientists in determining how a protein causes disease and how to design a new drug to fight the disorder. "Ultimately the research may prove to be a solution to drug resistance in bacteria," Kantardjieff noted. "The goal is to develop new antibiotics that will target new kinds of bacterial proteins."
In addition to studying the structure of proteins associated with such diseases as diphtheria, Alzheimer's and cancer, Kantardjieff is part of an international consortium funded by the National Institutes of Health. The Tuberculosis Structural Genomics Consortium is a group of more than 150 researchers worldwide who are trying to determine the structure of more than 400 proteins associated with TB.
About one-third of the world's population is infected with the bacterium that causes TB, and more than two million people die annually of the disease, noted Kantardjieff. "Current treatment is expensive and can be considerably toxic," she said. Consortium members are trying to develop new, inexpensive drugs, with fewer adverse reactions, that will target TB bacterial protein.
The Keck Center is a hub facility for the California State University Program for Education and Research in Biotechnology. Last year, the center became one of five core centers in a national consortium of crystallography facilities serving primarily undergraduate institutions by remote access.
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