Faculty Highlights

Dr. Horgen

F. David Horgen, Ph.D.

Recent work in Dr. Horgen’s lab has involved the discovery of a soft coral compound, waixenicin A, as the first compound known that is capable of selectively shutting down the TRPM7 ion channel, a protein involved in cancer and stroke. TRPM7 is the main route for magnesium ions to enter the cells of mammals. Because magnesium ions are so critical for the growth and division of cells, shutting down TRPM7 blocks cancer cell growth. Through a network of collaborations that include fellow HPU chemist Dr. Gideon Berger and researchers at The Queens Medical Center and the University of Hawaii Cancer Center, waixenicin A is being optimized and investigated as a potential new treatment for cancer. (Click here to see the full story) (Hawaii Business New story)

Stroke is another potential application for waixenicin A. In the brain following ischemic stroke, TRPM7 is overactive in brain cells and allows calcium ions to flood into the cells, sustaining a lethal level of calcium ions. In a seemingly contradictory effect compared with killing cancer cells (and based on a building body of evidence), blocking TRPM7 in the days and hours after a stroke helps brain cells survive, potentially minimizing the negative effects of a stroke. As a starting point for new drugs that inhibit TRPM7, waixenicin A may open up avenues for new therapies to reduce the devastating effect of ischemic stroke.