(Nov. 1, 2017) -- Aimin Liu, Lutcher Brown Distinguished Chair in Biochemistry at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), has published research demystifying a decades-old medical case. The article, which appeared in Molecular Genetics and Metabolism, explores the first confirmed human case of 2,3-dioxygenase deficiency.
“Dr. Liu’s study is an important step forward in understanding hypertryptophanemia and is sure to have a tremendous positive human impact,” said George Perry, dean of the UTSA College of Sciences and Semmes Foundation Endowed Distinguished University Chair in Neurobiology. “His work is a vital part of our brain health research efforts and an example of the exciting, innovative research UTSA is known for.”
Liu, a UTSA biochemist, specializes in metabolism, the body’s process to convert food to energy. His expertise also includes biosynthesis, enzymology and protein biochemistry.
The UTSA researcher collaborated with Patrick Ferreira, a medical geneticist at Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, to document the case. Ferreira contacted Liu in 2015 seeking a better understanding of metabolic disorders he had followed in a female baby born in 1986.
Using advanced instrumentation techniques in his UTSA laboratory, Liu concluded that tryptophan 2,3-dioxygenase deficiency was the explanation for the patient’s conditions: chronic hypertryptophanemia, characterized by an excess of tryptophan, and its subsequent hyperserotonemia, a condition caused by excessive serotonin. Both disorders are rarely reported in the medical literature.
Their case is now the first confirmed report of human tryptophan 2,3-dioxygenase deficiency.
Tryptophan, an essential amino acid, is necessary for normal growth and is a precursor to the neurotransmitters serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin plays a critical role in the central nervous system and controls many of the body’s functions. Melatonin is derived from serotonin and has a critical role in the body’s sleeping cycles.
“We are dedicated to conducting this intense research because of the impact it can have on people struggling with these conditions,” he said. “The advanced labs we have at UTSA combined with our devoted students is what make these types of discoveries happen.”
Liu hopes that the discoveries he, Ferreira and his UTSA students made will lead to the development of medications that could help people with metabolic disorders like the one they studied.
“It was very moving to be involved in a study that could result in a person, or multiple people, benefitting from our work,” Liu said. “It’s a wonderful example of laboratory work making a difference in the everyday world.”
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Learn more about the UTSA Department of Chemistry.
All UTSA faculty, staff and students are invited to attend open forums featuring finalist candidates for the position of vice provost and dean of the UTSA Graduate School.Various locations, Main and Downtown Campuses
The second of three in the annual holiday concert series which will feature the Chamber Singers (Santa Baby), Saxophone Ensemble (Sleigh Ride), Jazz Ensemble (Sugar Rum Cherry), Flute Ensemble and more performing holiday favorites. Admission $10.Arts Building Recital Hall (ARTS 2.03.02), Main Campus
The Roadrunners close out the regular season at home against North Texas.Alamodome, 100 Montana St., San Antonio
This event showcases innovative student projects and research performed across multiple disciplines. The symposium is designed to provide a public venue where UTSA senior engineering students to present advances achieved in their design projects.H-E-B Student Union Ballroom (HSU 1.104/1.106), Main Campus
Join the Office of Information Technology for the grand opening of the Digital Experience Lab (DEx Lab). The DEx Lab is open to the entire UTSA community and contains innovative learning tools and serves as a virtual reality lab.Applied Engineering and Technology Building (AET 0.202), Main Campus
The College of Education and Human Development’s Mexican American Studies (MAS) program will celebrate its 25thanniversary with a special celebration on Thursday, Nov. 29 at 6 p.m. at the UTSA Downtown Campus. The event is free and open to the public.Buena Vista Street Building Theater (BVB 1.326), Downtown Campus
The students will perform in a showcase of modern, jazz, and ballet dances choreographed by Megan Rulewicz, Randi Miles and Michelle Pietri. Tickets are $10. Parking is free in the Cattleman's Square Lot.Buena Vista Street Building Theater (BVB 1.326), Downtown Campus
The last concert in the annual holiday music series will feature the UTSA Wind Ensemble, Symphonic Band and University band. Open to the public; admission $10.Arts Building Recital Hall (ARTS 2.03.02), Main Campus