Monday, November 30, 2015


$200K grant to aid UTSA chemist Donald Kurtz in researching cancer therapy


Iron (left) attacks cancer cell

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(Nov. 30, 2010)--Lutcher Brown Distinguished Chair Donald Kurtz in the UTSA Department of Chemistry has been selected to receive $199,906 from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) to develop a novel approach to delivering iron at toxic levels to kill cancer cells and tumors. The two-year research project is considered "High Impact High Risk" and if successful could have a tremendous impact on cancer therapy.

"Iron is essential for all cells in the body to function properly and is safe up to certain levels -- however, the cells' iron transfer process is highly regulated," said Kurtz. "If we overload cells or tissues with iron, it becomes toxic. Our goal is to develop a method for delivering iron at toxic levels specifically to cancer cells."

Over the next two years, Kurtz and his research team will focus on developing a photochemical or light-activated cancer therapy. A nano-scale protein scaffold filled with approximately 2,000 iron atoms in its hollow center will drive the treatment. The scaffold will include peptides on its outer shell that will allow it to be recognized specifically by cancer cells. The peptides would make the scaffold bind to the cancer cells like Velcro.

Once researchers deliver the iron-loaded scaffold to cancer cells, they will zap the scaffold with tissue-penetrating, near-infra-red light. The light treatment will cause the scaffold to release its iron into the cells. The released iron will induce the production of free radicals, which, at sufficiently high levels, will overwhelm the cell's anti-oxidant capacity -- thereby killing the cells. The peptide on the outer shell of the protein scaffold can be varied to target specific types of cancers such as breast or prostate.

"The basic idea is to use light as the trigger to shoot iron out of our protein scaffold and into the cancer cells," said Kurtz. "Think of it as shooting iron bullets to kill cancer." Kurtz joined UTSA's faculty in 2006 after serving 20 years on the chemistry faculty at the University of Georgia. He is a specialist in bioinorganic chemistry and studies metalloenzymes such as non-heme iron enzymes at the molecular level.

Established by Texas voters in 2007, CPRIT will invest up to $3 billion for groundbreaking cancer research, prevention programs and services in Texas.



Dec. 1, 9 a.m.

CITE Venture Competition & Exposition

The annual Center for Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship (CITE) 100K Venture Competition and Exposition will be held on the Main Campus on Dec. 1. Twenty-eight teams from across the university will exhibit their project; six teams will compete for a prize pool of more than $100,000 in funding to launch their new venture / company. More than 650 students have participated in launching new technology ventures.
Biotechnology, Sciences and Engineering (BSE 2.102), Main Campus

Dec. 3, 5:30 p.m.

UTSA Downtown String Project Winter Concert

This concert features 50 community children performing music in the UTSA Downtown String Project Winter Concert. The children, led by UTSA music students studying to be music teachers, will join together in playing the Theme from Batman at their concert. The Batman of San Antonio, a local celebrity figure, will make an appearance at the concert. This event is free.
Buena Vista Theatre, Downtown Campus

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Did You Know?

UTSA writes the book on all-digital libraries

As touch screens and e-books demand more and more attention from both casual readers and scholars, many people say the handwriting is on the wall for the printed page.

At UTSA, the handwriting is on the wall for a library that doesn't have any printed books.

Since March 2010, the bookless library in the Applied Engineering and Technology Building has given UTSA students an innovative way to read, research and work with each other to solve problems.

With ultra-modern furniture and a décor featuring desktop computers, scanners and LCD screens, the AET Library is designed to engage students in an online format. But it also offers group study niches and study rooms with whiteboards and glass walls on which students can write. The space encourages teamwork, communications and problem solving for the next generation of scientists and professional engineers.

Did you know? The UTSA AET Library is the nation's first completely bookless library on a college or university campus. It served as a model for Bexar County's first-in-the-nation public bookless library system and one of its branches, the Dr. Ricardo Romo BiblioTech.

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