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Watt Lab

The Watt Research Lab Group specializes in bioinorganic chemistry.

Biological systems require trace amounts of transition metal ions to sustain life. Transition metal ions are required at the active sites of many enzymes for catalytic activity. In fact, transition metals catalyze some of the most energetically demanding reactions in biology. Unfortunately, these highly reactive metal ions also catalyze reactions that are dangerous for biological systems, especially if the metal ion is free in solution. For this purpose, biology has evolved elaborate transition metal ion handling systems to bind and sequester transition metal ions in non-reactive environments to prevent these dangerous reactions from occurring. The Watt Lab focuses on how iron is properly moved throughout the body.

A healthy individual possesses iron trafficking systems to absorb iron from the diet, transport iron in the bloodstream and deliver iron to cells that require iron. The failure or inhibition of these iron trafficking systems results in free iron that is a potent catalyst to form reactive oxygen species or oxidative stress.

The Watt Lab studies diseases where iron trafficking is disrupted and oxidative stress is elevated. Such conditions include Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, kidney disease, and Diabetes, among other conditions.