Exploring the Role of Polysialic Acid in Tumor Metastasis

John Weedin : Molecular and Cell Biology/History

Mentor: Professor Carolyn Bertozzi, Chemistry & MCB

A double major in Molecular & Cell Biology and History, John intends to investigate the function of polysialic acid (PSA) on the cellular membranes of cancer cells. Polysialic acid is a relatively long, negatively charged sugar polymer composed only of sialic acid monomers. While the role of polysialic acid in neural and fetal cells has been well studied, information regarding its role in tumor cells has not. John hypothesizes that the long molecule disrupts the cell-cell interactions that prevent uncontrolled cell division, allowing tumor cells to rapidly multiply and expand. By utilizing the techniques of organic chemistry and molecular biology, John hopes to elucidate the function and importance of polysialic acid in tumors. Collaborating with researchers at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, he hopes to show that the presence of polysialic acid helps cause cancer. If successful, further research on the inhibition of polysialic acid biosynthesis could lead to future cancer therapy.