Prof. Shana Stoddard and Students Publish Research That Could Aid in Therapy for Autoimmune Disorders and Cancer

Shana Stoddard's MIR lab students.
Top row, from left: Serena Stoddard, Colin Welsh, Mounika Aramandla; Bottom row, from left: Maggie Palopoli, Riya Patel, Xavier May.

Dr. Shana Stoddard, assistant professor of chemistry, and students in her research lab have co-authored articles recently published in two peer-reviewed journals—Molecular Informatics and PROTEINS: Structure, Function, Bioinformatics.

The article in Molecular Informatics is titled “Design of Potent Panobinostat Histone Deacetylase Inhibitor Derivatives: Molecular Considerations for Enhanced Isozyme Selectivity Between Histone Deacetylase.” It is co-authored by Xavier May, a biochemistry & molecular biology major who graduated from Rhodes in 2017. He currently works as an emergency room scribe.

Histone Deacetylases (HDACs), a family of 18 different enzymes, are important for gene regulation and are being pursued as drug targets for various types of disorders. Stoddard’s Molecular Immunotherapeutics Research (MIR) lab at Rhodes has conducted studies that can be used in the future design of more potent and selective inhibitors of the enzymes used in cancer therapies. The Stoddard group also has successfully tested several of the designed drugs and found that they do have the potential to be cancer therapeutics. Work on this project currently is being conducted by another Rhodes student in the MIR lab, Liam Goldman ’20.

Stoddard’s article in Proteins is titled “Structure and Function Insights Garnered from In silico Modelling of the Thrombospondin Type-1 Domain-Containing 7A Antigen.” This research examines one of the antigens responsible for the autoimmune disorder idiopathic membranous nephropathy.  The article was co-written by Rhodes students Colin Welsh ’19 (chemistry), Maggie Palopoli ’20 (biochemistry and molecular biology), Mounika Aramandla ’19 (biology), and Riya Patel ’21. Serena Stoddard, a senior from The University of Missouri, also conducted research with Stoddard in her lab during the summer of 2018. The students on this project developed a computer program to efficiently process the data and analyzed the amino acids predicted to be erroneously targeted, by the immune system, contributing to a kidney specific autoimmune disease.

A majority of Stoddard’s research is focused on improving patient outcomes with autoimmune disorders, in particular idiopathic membranous nephritis. The diverse group of students in her lab use a combination of computational chemistry, biochemistry, and cell-based assays. In her research endeavors, Stoddard also hopes to increase the numbers of underrepresented groups in the STEM fields. 

“I believe the scientist is the bridge between science and society,” she says. “And so, it is my goal to train all of my students here at Rhodes to be independent thinkers, collaborative workers, and creative problem solvers so they can address challenges we face in society every day. The diverse group of students in my lab have really taken hold of these objectives, and I am glad to be a part of fostering their success in and contribution to the field of STEM.”