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Two UMass Medical School research teams chosen to compete in STAT News competition

UMass Medical School Communications

March 01, 2021

Two research teams from UMass Medical School have been selected by STAT News to compete among 64 contestants in the 2021 STAT Madness competition. STAT Madness is a bracket-style competition in which members of the public vote for the best biomedical research from 2020. The first round of voting begins Monday, March 1.

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The public is encouraged to vote on its favorite research teams beginning Monday, March 1. The winning research team will be named in early April after six rounds of voting.

Raffi Van Aroian, PhD, and Gary R. Ostroff, PhD, both professors of molecular medicine, were chosen for STAT Madness for their work developing a potential therapeutic against hookworms. The therapeutic is an engineered bacterium, containing crystal compound 5B inactivated with a food-grade oil that can be used to safely treat hookworms in animal models. It can be easily delivered to patients and manufactured in large volumes for mass distribution. Human hookworms are among the most debilitating parasitic diseases in children and adults worldwide. These parasites burrow into the small intestine and feed on blood, causing anemia. In children, these parasites result in significant growth stunting, underperformance in school and reduced economic earnings later in life.

Andrei Korostelev, PhD, associate professor of RNA therapeutics; Anna Loveland, PhD, instructor of RNA therapeutics; and former Korostelev lab postdoc Gabriel Demo, PhD, now a group leader at Masaryk University; comprise the other STAT Madness team from UMass Medical School. Their study, published in Nature, describes the stages in which ribosomes synthesize life-sustaining proteins in unprecedented real-time detail, captured using state-of-the-art, time-resolved, cryo-electron microscopy. The research team used cryo-EM to visualize the delivery of amino-acid-bound tRNA to the ribosome. Visualizing the structural ensembles at different time points provided an unprecedented view of the complete reaction, from initial selection to tRNA proofreading and the addition of an amino acid to the growing protein.

The public is encouraged to vote on its favorite research teams beginning Monday, March 1. The winning research team will be named in early April after six rounds of voting. Follow the competition on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.

Related stories on UMassMed News:
UMass Medical School develops ‘paraprobiotic’ to fight parasitic roundworms in humans
UMass Medical School researchers visualize new states of ribosome translation with cryo-EM