Grant Supports Research in Blood Cell Development
Posted October 8, 2002
HOLLAND -- Dr. Michael J. Pikaart of the Hope
College chemistry faculty has received a federal grant for
research that could ultimately have implications for the
treatment of blood diseases.
Pikaart has received a $102,317 Academic Research
Enhancement Award (AREA) through the National Heart, Lung
and Blood Institute of the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services. The three-year award will support his on-
going research into the way that blood cell development is
affected by the interaction between DNA and a protein known
"Gata-1 is required for bone marrow stem cells to
mature into functional blood cells in circulation," said
Pikaart, an assistant professor of chemistry at Hope. "In
red blood cell development, for example, Gata-1 works to
turn on expression of the globin genes to produce hemoglobin
protein, the molecule which carries oxygen from the lungs to
the rest of the body."
In studying the relationship between Gata-1 and
DNA, Pikaart is hoping to gain insights not only into such
normal functioning, but also into how the interaction might
play a role in diseases such as anemia and leukemia--
information that medical researchers might then be able to
use in their search for a cure.
Pikaart, a member of the Hope faculty since 1999,
has been studying the functioning of the Gata-1 protein
since 1992, when he took a research position with the
National Institutes of Health.
He conducts his investigation at Hope in
collaboration with undergraduate student researchers during
both the school year and summer. The AREA award's support
includes stipends that will enable two students to work with
him full-time during each of the three summers included in
the grant duration.
The AREA awards enable qualified scientists to
receive support for small-scale research projects to support
the nation's biomedical and behavioral research effort. The
grants are intended to create a research opportunity for
scientists and institutions outside of the large
universities that typically participate in HHS programs.
Besides benefiting researchers and their colleges, the grant
program aims to benefit students as well through exposure
to, and participation in, research that encourages students
to pursue graduate studies in health sciences.
Pikaart teaches biochemistry and general chemistry
at Hope, in addition to directing student research. He had
previously been an instructor with the Foundation for
Advanced Education in the Sciences, and a staff fellow with
the Laboratory of Molecular Biology of the National
Institutes of Health, in Bethesda, Md.
He graduated from Calvin College in 1986 with a
major in chemistry, and completed his doctorate in
biochemistry at the University of Michigan in 1992.