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Bayse Receives NSF Grant to Research Effects of Selenium On Biochemical Signaling in Human Body

Craig Bayse, an Old Dominion University chemist, has received a $240,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study how the trace element selenium affects biochemical signaling in the human body. The research relates to the potential use of selenium to fight cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Bayse's theoretical studies in recent years have shed light on the biological activity of selenium, which is found in high concentrations in onions and garlic, as well as in Brazil nuts. Antioxidant properties of the trace element have been shown to protect against diseases such as prostate and lung cancer and the sides-effects of stroke.

But the use of selenium has been limited by its potential disruption of normal biochemical signaling pathways, especially those that are zinc-mediated and lead to such beneficial outcomes as DNA repair. During the three-year grant period, Bayse will use molecular modeling to determine the mechanisms of both the beneficial and harmful effects of selenium.

"With this large grant for a computational chemistry study, Professor Bayse is addressing a very important area of medically related biochemistry," said Richard Gregory, chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

The work ahead for Bayse requires that he overcome complications caused by the involvement of solvent in aqueous-phase proton transfer reactions. According to NSF's award abstract, this ODU research will use a computational technique for solvent-assisted proton exchange (SAPE), which allows for realistic modeling of proton transfer through an aqueous medium.

"The computational models also provide a molecular view on how aqueous-phase reactions work, and thereby will generate results applicable beyond selenium chemistry," according to the NSF document. "The long-term, broader impacts of this award relate to the potential role selenium may have in the prevention of cancer and cardiovascular disease; the results in the long term may guide the development of chemotherapeutic agents."

Bayse, who joined the ODU faculty in 2001, is an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry and his department's graduate program director.

This article was posted on: February 19, 2008

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