Hormel Institute scientist awarded $1.5 million for research that could lead to new treatments for several rare diseases

The Hormel Institute’s Amer Alam, PhD, Assistant Professor and leader of the Structural Biology and Membrane Transport research section, has received a grant titled ” Molecular basis of fatty acid transport by peroxisomal ABC transporters.” The four year, $1.5 million R01 grant was awarded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The metabolism of fatty acids is essential for the cells in our bodies to grow. Structures within cells called peroxisomes are central to fatty acid metabolism. This project focuses on understanding how large fatty acids can enter peroxisomes where they can be broken down. Entry is facilitated by three large molecules in a family of proteins called ABC transporters that use energy to shuttle fatty acids into peroxisomes. When the function of these transporters is impaired, several metabolic and neurological diseases can arise, including X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy (X-ALD). X-ALD is a genetic disease that affects the nervous system and adrenal glands and occurs in approximately 1 in every 15,000 people around the world.

The University of Minnesota (UMN) is a pioneer in research and therapy for leukodystrophies like X-ALD, including bone marrow transplants, often the only treatment for patients suffering from these devastating pathologies.

Dr. Alam will use The Hormel Institute’s CryoEM, one of the world’s most powerful electron microscopes, in this research. Cryo-em technology allows scientists to see the structure of some of the smallest parts of our bodies – down to the near-atomic level. Thanks to the support of The Hormel Foundation, The Hormel Institute’s CryoEM was added as part of the 2016 expansion.

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