Emory Report
April 25, 2005
Volume 58, Number 28


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April 25, 2005
Lynn looks to grab order from chaos at Great Teachers Lecture

BY katherine baust

Emory’s David Lynn, an internationally renowned researcher in biomolecular chemistry, molecular evolution and chemical biology, will discuss how spontaneous changes in human molecular structure can cause disease, and what that means for new treatments, in his upcoming Great Teachers Lecture, “From Alzheimer’s Disease to Nanotechnology: Grabbing Order Out of Chaos,” Thursday, April 28, in Miller-Ward Alumni House.

Lynn, Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Chemistry and Biology, will explore how changes in the folding of protein molecules can lead to complications such as diabetes and cataracts, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s, as well as disorders that move between species, such as mad cow disease.

“We might imagine that these flaws in the stacking of our basic building blocks could cause our crumbling demise,” Lynn said. “However, we will see how these diseases do not arise from the absence of molecular order, but rather from a self-assembly into different, more remarkable and—at times—toxic-ordered arrays.”

The spontaneous formations of these new arrays are extremely common and may play important roles in human disease and in understanding life, he continued.

“Such knowledge offers tremendous promise for discoveries in fields as diverse as drug design and genome engineering, pathogenesis and genome evolution, functional nanoscale materials and even the origins of living systems,” Lynn said.

Before joining Emory, Lynn taught at the University of Chicago. He is a founding member of the Center for Fundamental and Applied Molecular Evolution and the Center for the Analysis of Supramolecular Self-Assemblies. In 2002, he was named one of 20 inaugural Howard Hughes Medical Institute professors, receiving $1 million over four years to translate his passion for science to the undergraduate classroom. The result has been a series of freshman seminars called “Origins of ORDER (On Recent Discoveries by Emory Researchers),” which has brought graduate students to the classroom to share a broad array of current research with first-year students.

Each year the Great Teachers Lecture Series showcases some of Emory’s most gifted faculty members. Lynn’s is free and open to the public. For more information, go to www.cll.emory.edu/gtls/index.htm.