About the Seminar
The context in which a metal resides within a biological environment significantly influences its activity in function. Recent years have seen a rise in tools for monitoring metal ions and have illuminated the diversity in metal speciation in biology, but many of these tools are focused on probing metals in the intracellular space. The state-of-the-art methods for assessing metal status in extracellular fluids such as blood plasma focus either on absolute quantitation or evaluate a limited number of metal- containing species. While these methods have offered important insight into extreme cases of metal deficiency in overload, subtle imbalances are more challenging to diagnose and understand. This talk will describe our efforts to expand and elucidate metal speciation and its dynamics in the extracellular space, specifically in the blood plasma and the interstitial space. We will discuss molecular-level investigations of extracellular biomolecules and their interactions with metal ions, the development of tools to selectively probe extracellular metal biology, and the impacts our research can have in discovering biomarkers that link metal micronutrient homeostasis, diet, and metabolic disorders.
About the Speaker
Marie Heffern is an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of California, Davis, where she started in August 2017. She obtained a dual degree in Chemistry (B.S.) and Religion (B.A.) from the University of Southern California where she researched low-temperature synthetic routes to perovskite nanocrystals with Richard L. Brutchey. She earned her Ph.D. at Northwestern University with Thomas J. Meade investigating metal complexes as protein inhibitors. Following her graduate studies, she trained with Christopher Chang at the University of California, Berkeley, researching in vivo imaging probes for redox-active metals. Her research group focuses on interdisciplinary approaches within the field of bioinorganic chemistry with a particular emphasis in metals in medicine. Specifically, the team is investigating the impact and applications of metals in diet and disease, with a focus on endocrine disorders.