Furthering Our Understanding of Ubiquitous Messenger Molecules

Jan 7 2014

Furthering Our Understanding of Ubiquitous Messenger Molecules

messenger moleculesWith the support of the National Science Foundation (NSF), a new project by Children’s Hospital molecular biologist Adam Resnick, PhD, seeks to shed light on inositol pyrophosphates, a type of messenger molecules. Found in all eukaryotic cells, inositol pyrophosphates are a new class of signaling molecules that “play roles in diverse processes,” said Dr. Resnick. However, despite their ubiquity, these molecules remain poorly understood.

Notably, Dr. Resnick’s award is one of only a handful of active NSF awards given to Children’s Hospital investigators. The award from the NSF is “extremely rare,” Dr. Resnick noted, because the NSF is “very basic science and student education oriented.” According to the NSF’s website, it is “the funding source for approximately 20 percent of all federally supported basic research.”

Dr. Resnick’s project is just one example of the groundbreaking, illuminating basic research being conducted at CHOP Research every day. In contrast to applied research — in which research is conducted with a specific goal in mind — basic research is more concerned with gaining a greater understanding of how systems (in this case biological processes) work at an elementary level.

Though Dr. Resnick has been “very involved in translational research,” at the same time his lab conducts “a fundamental level of research.” After all, in order to perform translational research — in which basic findings are “translated” into applications — scientists “have to know how cells work,” Dr. Resnick pointed out, so his inositol pyrophosphate project is a good fit for the NSF.

So with an eye toward future experimentation, Dr. Resnick hopes to describe how these messenger molecules work, he said. In particular, he plans to “discover and define the second messenger roles of inositol pyrophosphates,” adding that “they do novel things … they modify proteins in new ways.” Dr. Resnick has been working with inositol pyrophosphates and related molecules since his time in graduate school at Johns Hopkins University.

And in part because the NSF is committed to supporting education, Dr. Resnick’s project will also feature opportunities for students to receive basic research training. Students will have the chance to get a “real authentic view of the importance of basic, fundamental research in the context of a children’s hospital setting,” he noted.

In addition to his work on inositol pyrophosphates, Dr. Resnick has been involved in a number of other investigations: he is a member of CHOP’s Stand Up to Cancer Dream team; he is contributing to a project led by CHOP geneticist Struan Grant, PhD, investigating the genetic links between type 2 diabetes and cancer; and he recently traveled to Washington, DC to advocate for continued federal support for childhood brain tumor-related research. And alongside CHOP’s Tom Curran, PhD, FRS, Peter C. Phillips, MD, and Phillip (Jay) Storm, MD, Dr. Resnick helps lead CHOP’s involvement in the Childhood Brain Tumor Tissue Consortium.

To read more about the inositol pyrophosphate project, see the NSF award page at http://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1253809&HistoricalAwards=false