The crystals floating down in this beaker of ethanol are made from a testosterone analog. Leah Lowder, a Ph.D. student at Dartmouth University who conducted this research in the lab of Sridhar Varadarajan at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, synthesized the molecule as one piece of a potential anticancer agent. This larger compound works in three stages, represented by three sections of the structure above. First, the testosterone analog targets cancer cells by binding to androgen receptor, a protein that is over-expressed on the outside of some types of cancer cells’ nuclei. The androgen receptor tows the molecule into the nucleus, where another part of the agent can bind to certain regions of the cell’s DNA. Then the molecule’s DNA-methylating component attaches a methyl group to an adenine base, thus damaging the DNA and potentially killing the cancer cell.
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