Yang Li, Ph.D., and team secure NIH grant for skin cancer research
Li collaborates with OHIO
biochemists to study how zinc effects skin cell damage
Sept. 26, 2008
By Colleen Kiphart
Professor of Biomedical Sciences Yang Li, Ph.D., is
collaborating with Ohio University biochemists to delve deeper into
the relationship between ultraviolet (UV) radiation and skin cancer.
Their research recently received a five-year, $1.25 million grant
from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), marking the fourth
NIH-supported research project involving OU-COM faculty so far this
While it is
widely known that UV rays break down skin cells and can cause
cancerous mutations, the team, lead by Shiyong Wu, Ph.D., associate
professor of biochemistry, is trying to learn more. Skin cells incur
damage and die on a regular basis, but health issues arise when they
do not recover properly. The researchers are searching for a link
between zinc and nitric oxide in the cell death and repair process.
“When we shed
UV light on skin cells and other types of cells, there were
increases in cellular zinc that matched up with cell injury or
death,” Li said. “These are completely in line with other studies in
my lab, (the results of which show) that zinc overload causes cell
injury and plays a role in the regulation of apoptosis (normal cell
research, Li has established himself as an expert on the effects of
zinc on the body. Most recently he investigated the possible
correlation between zinc and strokes. His study, published last
year, questioned the dominant theory that high levels of calcium
lead to brain cell injury in ischemic strokes, and pointed the
finger instead to an overload of zinc.
million Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer each year, making
it one of the most common cancers in America. Despite being one of
the most treatable cancers, 11,200 people die from skin cancer
annually, according to 2008 American
Cancer Society statistics.
Li and Wu will
work with Tadeusz Malinski, Ph.D., Marvin & Ann Dilley White
Distinguished Professor of biochemistry, who developed the
nanosensor technology they will use to spot nitric oxide.
“The Office of
Research and Grants is greatly encouraged to see the increase in
federal grants obtained by HCOM faculty,” said Chris Knisely,
M.A., executive director of the Office of Research and Grants.
“Funding from NIH and NSF provides the resources to help us meet the
college goal of focusing our research and the University goal of
expanding our prominence in research.”