By Lillie-Beth Brinkman
Copyright (©) 2015, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
PHILADELPHIA — A presentation at a graduate research symposium in Oklahoma City led to one doctoral student’s trip to attend the international convention of the Bioscience Industry Organization.
Rebba C. Boswell-Casteel, who is pursuing her doctorate at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, won top honors at the recent Graduate Research Education and Technology Symposium for her research in how proteins transport medicines to cells.
Her research work earned her a scholarship to attend the conference sponsored by Dunlap Codding law firm, the health sciences center and the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber.
“That’s a really great opportunity for our students,” said James Tomasek, vice president for research at OUHSC.
The work Boswell-Casteel, 28, is doing under the mentorship of Franklin A. Hays, Ph.D., in his lab at OUHSC may some day greatly improve how certain medicines get inside cells to work.
“We are trying to determine at the cellular level how medications are transported inside the body,” she said. “This work might ultimately help guide doctors in prescribing the most effective medication depending on the individual taking it.”
Specifically, Boswell-Casteel said her research at OUHSC involves working with equilibrative nucleoside transporters (ENTs), which are the proteins that transport the medicines to get them into the body’s cells. So far, her lab is the first that’s been able to work with the proteins in a purified state, allowing researchers to start studying how the proteins work in isolation. By doing so, they know the purified transporter with which they are working is the protein responsible for transporting the compound and not another protein working in conjunction with it.
Most of the work she’s doing involves anti-cancer or anti-viral compounds, but there are other implications for the work beyond drugs that fight viruses and cancer.
At the BIO convention, Boswell-Casteel spent the last three days networking and pursuing opportunities for work after she earns her doctorate.
Long-term, she is interested in helping advance other scientists’ research in the areas of medicines and medical devices, such as for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Lillie-Beth Brinkman is content marketing manager for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, which is a member of the Oklahoma Bioscience Association and one of the sponsors of the OKBio booth at the international convention.