Yan Xia is looking at cancer at the molecular level. Xia, doctoral student in biochemistry and biophysics, is studying ways to use small molecules to inhibit the effects of a protein that binds to RNA molecules and can allow tumors to grow.
Xia described the RNA molecules as a key and RNA-binding proteins as a lock. His research focuses on one lock in particular, Musashi-1, which can trap a specific RNA molecule and contribute to the formation of tumors. He and colleagues have discovered small molecules that match the “key” shape of the RNA molecule and can bind to the Musashi-1 protein, which offers potential to block its ability to trap the RNA and form tumors.
The research is a project of the lab led by John Karanicolas, assistant professor in molecular biosciences. The primary goal of the Karanicolas lab is to modulate protein function using small molecules.
Next steps in the discovery are to share findings with medicinal chemistry researchers, who can use this new strategy to develop cancer fighting compounds.
Xia presented his work during the 2014 Capitol Graduate Research Summit in Topeka, where a select group of students share their work for legislators and statehouse visitors to see. Students come from KU, Kansas State University and Wichita State University.