The Gordon Hammes Scholar Award honors young scientists responsible for the very best papers published in Biochemistry. The winner of this year’s award, Leiden University’s Dr. Can Araman, will present the Gordon Hammes Scholar Award Lecture during the ACS Fall 2020 Virtual Meeting & Exposition – access the on-demand presentation here.
Established in 2017 and awarded alongside the Gordon Hammes Lectureship Award, the Scholar Award seeks to recognize those at the bench – graduate students, postdocs, and undergraduates – for the outstanding work they do. The award is sponsored jointly by Biochemistry and the ACS Division of Biological Chemistry.
Araman was selected as the 2020 winner based on his 2018 article, “Amyloid-like Behavior of Site-Specifically Citrullinated Myelin Oligodendrocyte Protein (MOG) Peptide Fragments inside EBV-Infected B-Cells Influences Their Cytotoxicity and Autoimmunogenicity,” co-authored with Miriam E. van Gent, Nico J. Meeuwenoord, Nicole Heijmans, Mikkel H. S. Marqvorsen, Ward Doelman, Bart W. Faber, Bert A. ’t Hart, and Sander I. Van Kasteren.
“Dr. Araman’s accomplishments stood out on the basis of his work spanning peptide synthesis through brain immunology to explain the disease, all the while combining creativity with thoroughness and precision. He has taken a leadership role in his lab, had two grants funded, and is contributing lectures to a course, as a postdoc. His award-winning achievement is his demonstration that amyloid formation is stimulated by the presence of citrulline side chains in autoimmune epitopes important in the development of muscular sclerosis (MS),” said Biochemistry Editor-in-Chief Alanna Schepartz and the ACS Division of Biological Chemistry in a joint statement.
Read a brief interview with Gordon Hammes Scholar Award Winner, Dr. Can Araman
How/why did you choose to pursue this field of research?
In the course of my undergraduate studies in Biomedical Chemistry, I got fascinated by the brain and the chemical reactions governing its (dys)function. Soon I realized that diseases affecting the cognitive properties of the brain irreparably, neurodegenerative diseases, represent a very appealing research area. Hence, I took courses and conducted internships towards this topic as an undergrad student. Subsequently, during my Ph.D. studies under the guidance of Professor Christian Becker at the University of Vienna, I was investigating the impact of posttranslational modifications (PTMs) on the main proteinogenic pathogen of an infectious neurodegenerative disease, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), better known as mad cow disease. I can certainly say that this project brought up my passion and ambition to pursue a career in neurodegenerative biochemistry research. Moreover, my postdoc period in the group of Prof. Sander van Kasteren (Leiden, the Netherlands) and the strong collaboration with Professor Bert ‘t Hart (Groningen, the Netherlands) allowed me to gain valuable insights into immunological processes in neurodegenerative diseases. I would consider these three researchers as my scientific guides into the unknown realms of neurodegeneration.
What are you working on now?
Currently, I am working on investigating neurodegenerative disease mechanisms in multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease combining aspects of both neurodegeneration and autoimmunity. The exact pathogenesis of MS is not entirely understood with two opposing disease mechanisms, namely outside-in and inside-out, proposed. The outside-in hypothesis states infiltration of immune cells to the central nervous system (CNS) as the primary cause of the disease, whereas inside-out hypothesis supports the idea that the axons are heavily degenerated causing the loss of neuronal function and leading to neuroinflammation. At the Institute of Chemical Immunology, we are interested in finding out if there is an interplay of both aforementioned disease mechanisms and which pathophysiological factors (e.g. viral infections, vitamin deficiency) enable a pre-dominantly neurodegenerative pathology. In our article in Biochemistry, we have shown that an aberrant PTM (citrullination) on a key antigen in MS is crucial for such neurodegenerative pathology of an MS model in marmosets. Recently we are focusing on investigating if these results can be transferred to humans and what are possible consequences thereof.
What do you see as important future directions/emerging trends in biochemistry?
If you would have asked me two months ago, I would have said that an emerging trend is the site-specific manipulation of proteins on native residues via chemical methods as well as genetic methods (e.g. CRISPR-Cas) for therapeutic purposes. However, with respect to the recent corona pandemic, I would say that vaccine research will be boosted in the years to come. Specifically, I am eager to see what the outcome of mRNA and DNA vaccines might be, as there are none approved by any European or US authorities yet. Biochemistry of pathogenic proteins and how they enter/infect cells will certainly be another interesting topic to look at. Taken together, in my opinion, the scientific landscape of biochemical research will be shifted more to applications than fundamentals, whereas these applications might lead to the emergence of new and exciting fundamental research questions.
Explore a selection of research articles from Dr. Can Araman
Amyloid-like Behavior of Site-Specifically Citrullinated Myelin Oligodendrocyte Protein (MOG) Peptide Fragments inside EBV-Infected B-Cells Influences Their Cytotoxicity and Autoimmunogenicity
Biochemistry 2019, 58, 6, 763–775
Going Native: Synthesis of Glycoproteins and Glycopeptides via Native Linkages To Study Glycan-Specific Roles in the Immune System
Bioconjugate Chem. 2019, 30, 11, 2715–2726
Alkyne Functionalization of a Photoactivated Ruthenium Polypyridyl Complex for Click-Enabled Serum Albumin Interaction Studies
Inorg. Chem. 2020, 59, 11, 7710–7720