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Cancer therapy protein discovered by Charles County resident

A former University of Maryland Baltimore County student and Charles County resident is credited with the discovery of the crystal structure of a human protein which aids in cancer therapy.

Forrest Bowling, the primary scientist credited with the discovery of the protein phospholipase D1, or PLD1, structure, said that the process started at The Airola Lab at Stony Brook University in New York over two years ago.

“I started working on this at The Airola Lab in the summer of 2017,” Bowling said. “I have been working constantly on this and one day the purification went perfectly. The main thing is cancer therapy and the slowing of tumor growth. When we looked at it in mice, they are healthy and having reduced tumor size.”

Not only is the discovery going to be beneficial for slowing the growth of tumors and cancer, Bowling also stated that it will provide insight into blood diseases and Alzheimer’s disease.

Although this is a breakthrough that Bowling is very proud of, the work does not stop here. Bowling has done his part, now he is passing his findings on to chemists and biologists who are going to commence their work on pharmaceutical drugs.

“We can now give this crystal structure to chemists and computational biologists,” Bowling said. “They can design new drugs that can turn off the activity of the protein to reduce tumor size. It was fantastic to first see that structure.”

Bowling did not take all of the credit for the discovery. He said he wants to thank some of his colleagues, including Dr. Michael Airola, Justin A. Bell and Christian Salazar.

“I want to thank all of my friends, family and co-workers,” said Bowling. “Dr. Michael Airola was helpful with the funding. Airola was first able to start working on this 25 years ago at this university. It was very interesting to see his reaction.”

Airola said this is a very exciting time for him and his team, finally breaking through on something that has been researched for decades.

“Being able to do this in three years seems long but it is relatively short because people have been trying to do this for 25 years,” Airola said. “It is at the top of my career accomplishments.”

Airola credits most of the discovery to Bowling and remembers the first moments after the discovery was made.

“Forrest had emailed me that he thought he had made the major breakthrough that we needed to make, to solve the crystal structure,” Airola said. “He sent me a picture of it and it looked good. He wanted me to come in [to the lab] and I immediately knew it was good. I feel fortunate to work with Forrest and have him join the lab.”

Airola, the principal investigator who worked with Bowling to conceive the idea, said that there is still more work to be done.

“We have more work to do but we know this is a major breakthrough. We want to know what is happening in more detail,” Airola said. “We are interested in new small molecules that inhibit its activity.”

Airola said he is really happy for Bowling getting his first publication. The findings were recently published in Nature: Chemical Biology, one of the premier magazines for scientific research in the world.

Twitter: @MDunlopSOMD

Twitter: @MDunlopSOMD