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Faculty Spotlight on Dr. Qunxing Ding

Spotlight On: Dr. Qunxing Ding

Kent State University Professor Focuses Research on Helping Alzheimer's Patients

While at a scientific conference that focused on Huntington's Chorea years ago, Kent State University biologist, Dr. Qunxing Ding, recalls listening to a presentation from a 12-year-old boy. "He was so polite, talking with us, showing us his artwork," Ding recalls. "Then our hosts said he had the modified gene formation that would result with him having Huntington's disease before he was 21."

IMAGE: Dr. Qunxing Ding

Dr. Qunxing Ding   
Having the modified gene meant the then pre-teen would experience the neurodegenerative genetic disorder that would lead to cognitive decline and psychiatric problems. "It was so sad," Ding said of the diagnosis.  

To Ding, research is not a lifestyle. "It's about making a difference," he says. "I do research because I care about the patients."

Currently, Ding focuses on Alzheimer's disease, and finding a way to slow down protein aggregation, or the clumping of proteins. In normal, mainly younger cells, the body cleans the cells so this biological phenomenon doesn't occur. However, often times in older cells, protein aggregation occurs. Hypothetically, this phenomenon is linked to several neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, Huntington's Chorea and Parkinson's and Ding is looking to create a medicine that could be put on the market to slow down protein aggregation, thus slowing the onset of Alzheimer's disease.

To establish this medicine, Ding is testing 17 FDA approved compounds on earthworms, as these creatures' mechanical make-up mirror humans' and are easy to work with. In addition to recording the compounds that slow down protein aggregation, he is tracking the compounds that speed up this process.
Understanding this possible side-effect could help doctors determine the best medicines for their patients.

This research, one of multiple tracks of research Ding is working on, is being conducted at Kent State University at East Liverpool. As part of his classes, Ding often uses examples from his research to describe a specific point. "Occasionally students want to know more about what I'm doing in my research and they help me during the semester," Ding says. Most often, Ding teaches a microbiology class and lab, along with human anatomy and physiology.

Although Ding greatly enjoys research and working the laboratory equipment, he says, "As a scientist, most of the time you fail. It's constantly trial and error. As a professor, you can see the success of your students every day."

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