December 14, 2005
Ding Xu, a graduate student in the Division of Medicinal Chemistry and Natural Products, has received a predoctoral fellowship from the American Heart Association (MidAtlantic Affiliate). The award is worth $20,000 a year for two years. Ding’s research project, “Understanding substrate recognition mechanism of heparan sulfate 3-O-sulfotransferase,” is overseen by his adviser, Dr. Jian Liu.
“Being awarded this fellowship is a great honor,” said Xu. “Understanding how the body creates heparan sulfate will be of great benefit to the medical community and society as a whole.”
Xu’s project is designed to understand how heparan sulfate, a molecule on the surface of a blood vessel that prevents coagulation (i.e., it stops blood from clotting), is created by several enzymes. Heparan sulfate is the naturally occurring counterpart of the anticoagulant heparin, which is widely used by medical professionals to prevent harmful clots from forming in blood vessels, as well as to prevent clotting during open-heart surgery, bypass surgery, and dialysis. Heparin, however, has several serious side effects. If Xu and other School of Pharmacy researchers are able to understand how anticoagulant heparan sulfate is created, they may be capable of producing a drug that will work in the same capacity as heparin, but with little or no side effects.