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Volume 68, Isuue 80, Thursday, January 23, 2003

News

$2 million upgrade will boost UH research

By Raiha Ali
The Daily Cougar

The University took a step towards bigger and better research capabilities when a new Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) machine was installed yesterday at the TLC2 building in the old KUHT-TV studio.

The 800-megahertz machine is one of the most powerful scientific instruments used to give scientists an up-close study of the molecules of life.

"This machine was built to determine the structure of complicated molecules in liquid and thatis especially important for studying proteins found in the body. The purpose of this machine is to look at the molecules of life," said Bernard Montomery Pettitt, director of the UH Institute for Molecular Design. 

The device will be able to analyze biological molecules much faster and from far smaller samples than the 600 MHz machine which is still in use at the university.

Pettitt wanted the field of structural biology, where chemistry meets biology, to be recognized on campus. He says he needed the NMR machine to make this possible.

After attempts to get funding for the project, he finally received a $1 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation. The University in turn matched this fund for every dollar. 

The NMR upgrade cost under $2 million. Remaining funds were used to make upgrades in the X-ray facilities. University of Houston ranks at the top of the list for Structural Facilities in Texas.

An advantage of the machine is that it can analyze molecules in very dilute solutions and since many samples of particular substances are only available in small quantities, the NMR maximizes the amount of information scientists can get out of a sample.

"The reason for this machine is to gather information that will push the envelope and allow us to look at some of the largest biological molecules that havenit been thoroughly studied before, Pettitt said. 

In the hands of UH researchers, it will be used to cure diseases, understand cancer, and agricultural studies, such as projects dealing with feeding the hungry, Pettitt said.

The NMR allows scientists to create three-dimensional images of cellular proteins in their natural environment. Scientists will also get a better look at the reactions of proteins with various substances. This will help the foundation for computer-based design of drugs and vaccines. 

"This is really good for science in Houston and for science in the United States. Weire very happy to offer better facilities on campus," Pettitt said. 

The NMR marks another milestone in UHis quest to expand research capabilities. UH will now be the only university in Texas to have the 800-MHz machine, which is the largest commercially available NMR machine.
 Send comments to dcnews@mail.uh.edu

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