Particle physics art

Cutting-edge new equipment will help Sac State researchers study disease-causing viruses

Sacramento State science students and faculty members will benefit from new state-of-the-art equipment that will help advance research into the viruses that cause AIDS, COVID and other medical conditions.

A $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation will allow the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics later this year to install the instrument, the multiple-angle size-exclusion chromatography light scattering device, or SEC-MALS.

Chemistry professor Katherine McReynolds said the instrument is the only one of its kind in the Sacramento area and will benefit scientists on and off campus. Researchers from the US Geological Survey and UC Davis Medical School are among the parties that will have access to it, McReynolds said.

McReynolds will lead the Sac State investigations, along with chemistry teachers Linda Roberts and Stefan Paula. Physics and chemistry students taking upper-division lab classes will also benefit from the instrument’s “extra level of sophistication,” she said.

SEC-MALS measures the size and weight properties of molecules, such as proteins and polymers, by detecting how they scatter light. The information helps scientists identify and evaluate various species and determine their purity.

The researchers, led by McReynolds, will study therapeutic agents that can block the transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID.

“It will basically provide specialized detection and give us a lot of information about the size and dispersion of our samples,” McReynolds said.

The compounds that McReynolds and his students are synthesizing in their Sac State lab are versatile in their ability to fight multiple viruses, they found. The agents could ultimately be developed into drugs that slow the spread of HIV and COVID, and also serve as a “first line of attack against potential future pathogens,” she said.

“I’m always thinking about improving our students’ experiences and giving them something that could change the shape of their future,” McReynolds said. The work gives students valuable research experience and helps create attractive resumes for employers, she said.

SEC-MALS will make their work more accurate and efficient, McReynolds said, eliminating the need for off-campus analysis, a process that can be costly and limits hands-on learning experience, she said. .

“It will bring work home,” McReynolds said.

Paula studies organic compounds known as liposomes and will use the new equipment to determine their diameter and consistency. Roberts will use SEC-MALS to study proteins that contribute to plaque in arteries.

The instrument will also be integrated into several academic courses.

“This instrument is going to be fantastic,” McReynolds said. “It gives us and external collaborators new research capabilities. This will give us enhanced information that we weren’t able to get before on our campus.

About Cynthia Hubert

Cynthia Hubert came to Sacramento State in November 2018 after an award-winning career writing for the Sacramento Bee. Cynthia believes everyone has a good story. She lives in East Sacramento with her two cats, who enjoy birdwatching from their perch next to the living room window.