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Medical College of Wisconsin researcher to investigate enzymes involved in fatty acid oxidation

April 24, 2013

The Medical College of Wisconsin received a four-year, $1.5 million award from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, National Institutes of Health to study the structure and function of enzymes involved in fatty acid oxidation.

Jung-Ja P. Kim, PhD, professor of biochemistry, is the principal investigator for the grant.

All cells in the human body require energy to maintain their structural integrity and to perform their vital functions. The major portion of this energy comes from the metabolism of fatty acids in heart, liver, and muscle cells. A failure or imbalance of this process causes fatty acid oxidation disorders, which occur in two to three out of every thousand births in the United States, and lead to conditions including sudden infant death syndrome, cardiomyopathy, and skeletal myopathy.

Little is known about the assembly of key enzymes involved in the reactions that govern this process. Dr. Kim’s lab will use X-ray crystallography to reveal the structures of a number of enzymes crucial to the fatty acid oxidation process. This understanding will help researchers determine how the enzymes function and interact with one another to facilitate the production of energy.

The insights gained from this project will advance our knowledge about fatty acid oxidation, and may help scientists find new targets for potential therapies to treat specific metabolic disorders.

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