When I Synthesize My Molecule

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When I synthesize my standard molecule in a reaction consisting of a drug, guanine, and cysteine for biological analysis in my lab, I see it not just as organic chemistry but also as a reaction in the body. It is a simplified biological system. The cysteine is part of a large protein and the DNA is part of an even larger chromosome. The drug has already been infused into the blood stream, distributed throughout the body while associating and dissociating with various biomolecules, absorbed into the cells, and has now entered the nucleus of a cancer cell. When the reaction occurs inside the cell as it is occurring on my lab bench, it will create a lesion to the DNA so bulky that it could stop DNA replication requiring either repair or apoptosis of the cell (ideally) thus killing the cancer cell.

It is so much more than understanding organic chemistry and performing a chemical reaction. It is looking at a specific part of that drug’s effect on the body and seeking to understand it on a molecular level. Yes, the drug is effective at treating certain cancers, but it is also useful to know why the drug is so capable. If we look to further understanding the chemical interactions that occur, perhaps we can be able to design future generation drugs from this drug to improve the efficacy and specificity of treatment to better eradicate cancer.

But we wouldn’t understand it if we didn’t have chemistry.

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Hanna is a MD/PhD student at the University of Illinois and an aspiring physician scientist who aims to specialize in hepatobiliary cancers. She is also passionate about teaching, leadership, and advocacy. The energy she once used to pep up crowds as a college marching band member is now directed toward exciting and educating others about science and medicine, especially through her tweets at @MDPhDToBe and her blog at www.mdphdtobe.com.

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Posted in Science Writing

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