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Upstate professor awarded $1.1 million NIH grant to further study how enzymes help cells regulate pH

Upstate Medical University biochemist Patricia M. Kane, Ph.D., has been awarded a four-year $1.1 million National Institutes of Health grant to continue her lab’s research into how cells regulate pH. The grant supports Kane’s project titled “Regulation of V-ATPases by Phosphoinositides.”

“This has been a pet project of mine and I’m very excited to keep it going. Some people may doubt your hypothesis, which is fine–that’s what science is all about,” she said. “But if you can’t do the experiments you can’t test it out. And now we have the money to keep testing.”

The project is studying how V-ATPases, a type of enzyme, knows where and how to help cells regulate pH. Kane’s research has shown that the enzyme interacts with lipids at specific locations in the cell and these interactions can make the enzyme more active at those locations. “There might be a code for the lipid within the enzyme and we want to understand that code,” Kane said of future research.

The project could eventually help researchers better understand neurodegenerative diseases and diseases that affect the immune system, she said. This NIH grant supports Upstate’s strong research areas, Kane said.

“It fits really well with Upstate’s expertise in looking at biological structures,” she said. “It’s also relevant for neurological diseases, which is one of the areas (Upstate) wants to focus on. And this is federal money, which is really what drives science in the U.S.”

Kane is chair and professor of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. She is an expert on the structure and function of vacuolar ATPase and has maintained continuous NIH grant funding for more than 20 years. She has served on NIH study sections, as an ad hoc NIH reviewer and as an editor and reviewer for many top journals in her field. Kane was appointed to the Distinguished Faculty Rank by the SUNY board of trustees in 2016 and has received multiple teaching awards at Upstate Medical University, including the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Outstanding Teacher Award from the College of Graduate Studies several times.

Caption: Patricia Kane, PhD, chair and professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, in her Weiskotten Hall lab.

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