SUNY chemist wins national award for fertility research

Chemist Nicole S. Sampson of Setauket, N.Y., will be honored August 28 by the worlds largest scientific society for discovering how mammalian sperm fertilize an egg. She will receive the 2001 Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award from the American Chemical Society at its national meeting in Chicago.

What I try to do is understand, at a molecular level, is how sperm fertilize the egg, said Sampson, an associate professor of chemistry at the State University of New York, Stony Brook.

Despite the attention fertility issues receive among aspiring parents and the media, how fertilization itself happens garners little interest from drug companies. That was largely why Sampson took it on: If I can gain more insight into the fundamental process, perhaps the industry can pick it up for applications later, she said.

Biologists had shown that a specific protein on the surface of sperm cells likely plays an important role in binding sperm to egg. The obvious next question was what the protein, called fertilin-beta, would seek and latch onto at the eggs surface.

Sampson and her group used a technique called photoaffinity labeling to tag and track the surface proteins. They also made small molecules to block various pieces of the binding complex and thus study the pieces one at a time.

She said, We now know that fertilin-beta binds to an egg protein called alpha-6 beta-1 integrin — one of a powerful protein family that helps form tissue and marshal immune response. So now were trying to identify other binding partners and make more sperm mimics. The bioorganic chemist has been interested in science since before memory, she said. Scientists have run in my family, and my father especially supported and encouraged me to follow my interests.


Contact: Rodney Pearson
American Chemical Society

Page: 1

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