Soha Ahmadi, a PhD candidate in the Kraatz Group, is the recipient of the Huguett Cohen Award for 2017. The Huguett Cohen Award goes to outstanding Chemistry graduate students enrolled in the areas of Analytical, Biological or Organic Chemistry and honours students who have demonstrated exceptional progress in research and scholarly activities.
In her research, Soha is working on the role of metal ions, such as copper and iron, in Alzheimer’s disease. She hypothesizes that a protein called tau interacts with metal ions that causes abnormal folding of the protein, ultimately leading to the formation of neurofibrillary tangles. These tangles that are found on the interior of neurons of Alzheimer’s patients is one of the hallmarks of the disease. In her work, Soha discovered that tau not only interacts with copper and iron but that, in the case of copper, can lead to the formation of toxic reactive oxygen species which can further damage tissue. In her innovative project, she combines detailed mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy studies of tau fragment peptides with electrochemical studies to investigate metal-peptide interactions, providing her with evidence for the site of metal binding. For this project, she is collaborating with the groups of Professor Derek Wilson from York University and Professor Andre Simpson from the University of Toronto Scarborough. Her research on iron binding to tau led to a recent invited publication in Electrochimica Acta. Her work on tau fragment peptides was presented at the recent ACS meeting in San Francisco and is ready for publication, and is the culmination of her research work. “We hope that this project will provide a new insight into the molecular mechanism of Alzheimer’s disease and be a platform for a novel strategy of Alzheimer’s therapy. I would like to thank my supervisor, Prof Kraatz for the guidance and encouragement. None of this work could have been possible without his supervision and support. I truly appreciate how he has been always so encouraging of all my efforts, even when they were not successful. I would also like to thank Prof. Kerman and Prof. A. Simpson for their guidance and support. I not only have their support as my supervisory committee members, but also have the opportunity to have their guidance while I was working in their labs as part of my project. “ Soha commented.