Meet Mahmud Hussain
Mahmud Hussain recently was awarded first place in the Life Sciences category at the 2011 Graduate Student Research Symposium. A fifth year doctoral student in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Hussain's poster presentation was entitled, Alternate Protein Scaffolds from Hyperthermophilic Organisms for Engineering Biomolecular Recognition.
Originally from Dhaka, Bangladesh, Hussain earned his bachelor's degree in Chemical Engineering from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), with a concentration in Biochemical Engineering. For his graduate research, however, he chose NC State because he believes that we have some of the nation's top graduate programs. We offered ". . . in-depth and hands-on learning to each and every student." Hussain also found that faculty and staff have active involvement in every student's education and welfare. And he is also impressed that research at NC State is ". . . not confined to any single field of study, rather students are highly encouraged to explore all different possibilities and participate in interdisciplinary collaboration." Hussain expects to graduate with his Ph.D. in December.
Hussain says that he's always been fascinated by the way biological processes work, and he wanted to learn and understand what drives these processes in the molecular level. He believes that insight into biological processes not only increases the knowledge base, but enables one to apply this knowledge when addressing problems in biomedicine, biotechnology, and fundamental research.
His graduate research is in the field of protein engineering. Protein engineering involves designing of de novo mutant proteins for novel application. Proteins play the most critical role in mediating most biological processes that are essential to maintaining and propagating life. For instance, our immune system contains large protein molecules called antibodies that help us fight infections. This amazing ability of antibodies has inspired researchers to use them externally in laboratories, as "affinity reagents."
Hussain explains that affinity reagents are ". . . those molecules that are capable of binding another molecule of interest with high affinity." However, antibodies also have certain limitations -- very large structure and di-sulide bonds resulting in low stability, tedious and expensive process of generation, incompatibility in many applications, and unavailability of antibodies for countless proteins.
As a result of these limitations, Hussain's group developed a host of proteins that can be very promising alternatives to antibodies -- these proteins are derived from a class of microorganisms called hyperthermophiles. Hyperthermophiles thrive in very high pressure and temperature, such as deep sea vents, which also makes them very stable. In fact, the engineered proteins are much more stable than antibodies. In his award-winning poster, Hussain shows that affinity reagents derived from these hyperthermophiles can be engineered for virtually any target molecules.
As shown in the poster, Hussain extended his research of designing novel proteins in the field of drug delivery. His collaborators have characterized a plant virus that can be used to package cancer drug inside the viral structure and hence can be used to deliver drug to certain type of cancer cells. However, one of the major problems in cancer drug delivery is how to target the cancer cells only while keeping the healthy cells intact. Hussain designed a virus-binding protein that will eventually help eliminate non-specific drug delivery.
Hussain believes that the affinity reagents they engineered will be very attractive to the biotechnology industry both here in North Carolina and world wide. Meanwhile, his research continues. Currently, he is working on designing proteins that can help solve some of the problems associated with human embryonic stem cell research.
When not in the laboratory, Hussain says that he enjoys playing soccer/cricket, traveling, reading detective stories/science fiction, watching movies and listening to music.
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