|| Morehead State University’s Dr. Douglas Dennis, chair of the Department of Biology and Chemistry, has been awarded an administrative supplement grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The $37,000 award, which is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), will allow Dr. Dennis to purchase additional equipment and supplies for his existing NIH grant, titled “Analysis of Polyhydroxyalkanoate Inclusion Biogenesis.”
The research grant is to elucidate the mechanism of polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs), bacterial polymers that are synthesized in inclusions when carbon levels are high and another essential nutrient, such as nitrogen, is limited.
PHAs are made by bacteria when the bacteria sense they are running out of nutrients. These chemicals can be made into biodegradable plastic. His research grant will be used to try to determine how PHAs are made inside the bacterial cell.
“It is possible that if we can continue to determine how the plastic is made, we may be able to engineer bacterial cells that make more and better plastic,” said Dr. Dennis. “The primary goal of our work is to determine what proteins contribute to the formation of the plastic granules inside the cell, and then to determine their basic function. A secondary goal is to study how cells move proteins from one area of the cell to another, a process that would help us understand how certain diseases and syndromes function.”