February 12, 2019
Grace is looking at the structure of gene coding materials that could eventually be used to treat HIV, cancer, and ALS.
It's 1 enzyme that's involved in all 3 of those diseases: the Lariat Debranching Enzyme (Dbr1), which helps “splice out” unwanted elements of DNA. It’s part of her THINK Fellowship project.
“I got to make my own decisions about which which direction to go with my research," Grace said. "I wasn't really working for someone, I was working for myself. It really allowed me to gain more independence as a researcher.”
And that work might pay off by advacning health science: Right now, there aren’t any inhibitors to stop the interference of Dbr1 in our cells. Looking at the structure is a first step to discovering how to manipulate it.
Because Dbr1 is too small to examine under a microscope, Grace has to crystallize her samples to amplify their shadows with an X-Ray machine, so she can see them more clearly.
"The crystals are my favorite part," she said. "They take the longest, but I love coming in to check and see what they look like."
Want to take the lead on your own project?