Luther College student researches HSA protein applications

August 25, 2017

Human serum albumin is the most abundant protein found in human blood plasma. Emily Fuller, Luther College junior of Bettendorf, Iowa, is researching the interactions between curcuminoids and Human Serum Albumin using steady-state fluorescence spectroscopy for her summer research project at the college.

Fuller, the daughter of Ron and Kristy Fuller, of Bettendorf, is a 2015 graduate of Pleasant Valley High School. She is majoring in chemistry at Luther.

“I have learned that I love having each day be slightly different from the next. I love the variety that research provides and the excellence it demands,” said Fuller. “[Research] has allowed me to collaborate with my professor and fellow students in a productive, personable and fun way.”

Fuller is working with Olga Michels, Luther professor of chemistry, on her project.

“In the current educational climate it is key for undergraduate students to have opportunities to truly engage in cutting edge research. It is a pleasure to work with some of our brightest students on these research questions and contribute to literature in our fields of study. Providing these opportunities right here on Luther’s campus is an integral part for all of our science departments,” Michels said.

The curcuminoid-HSA complex has many potential applications, including use in a cancer treatment called photodynamic drug therapy. Curcuminoids are photoactive molecules “” they react to a specific wavelength of light “” and once excited, react to form reactive oxygen species. A reactive oxygen species can then trigger cellular apoptosis, programmed cell death, leading to the death of the cancer cell. The HSA protein carries the drug (curcuminoid) to the cancer site before it is excited, and then the drug is released, allowing for the therapy to occur.

The group’s collaboration is funded through a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Luther’s Student-Faculty Summer Research projects provide students an opportunity to research topics of interest alongside Luther faculty. This program is one of a wide selection of experiential learning opportunities at Luther intended to deepen the learning process and that are part of Luther’s academic core.

The results of the project will be presented at Luther’s Student Research Symposium in 2018.

A national liberal arts college with an enrollment of 2,150, Luther offers an academic curriculum that leads to the Bachelor of Arts degree in more than 60 majors and pre-professional programs. For more information about Luther visit the college’s website: