Transit issues made transparent thanks to new hire – University of Copenhagen

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02 February 2011

Transit issues made transparent thanks to new hire

Particles crossing through a surface don't sound like much of a life and death issue. But if the particle is a drug, and the surface is a cell membrane, figuring out what happens in transit becomes vitally important.

By Jes Andersen


Marité Cardenas is a sucker for surfaces

Vital to look through surfaces

Now the Department of Chemistry is boosting efforts to reveal transit behaviour of biochemical molecules by hiring Marité Cardenas as associate professor. And she is highly enthusiastic about her field of research.
"I like surfaces. They are everywhere. Any given medicine has to pass through bone, vein, cell membranes and any number of other surfaces to get to where they need to go", says the newly appointed addition to the staff.




Interesting when they change

If a drug in the form of a protein could pass unaltered through a cell membrane, there would be no reason to examine their transit. But the meeting of molecule and membrane does tend to modify the particle. Perhaps even its properties.
Dr Cardenas will join the nanochemistry group at the Nano-Science centre. An avid experimentalist she is absorbed in the question of how to recreate a surface as similar as possible to that of a living cell.

"If I just allowed my protein to interact chemically with the compounds composing a cell membrane it would be like trying to use a key in a keyhole that doesn't sit in a door. It wouldn't make much sense. So I need to create in vitro conditions that very closely mimics in vivo", explains Dr. Cardenas.

Mostly medicine, but food too

Membrane transit questions of importance to pharmaceuticals are the main thrust of Cardenas' work. But the food technology industry has a number of uses for her research as well. And in fact Dr. Cardenas has a background in that field. Having studied for her masters degree in her native Venezuela, she went to the University of Lund in Sweden to take yet another masters degree. This time in food technology. Still at Lund she studied for a PhD in the physical chemistry of surfaces, and then moved on to the technical university Malmö Högskola to perform postdoctoral work in medical technology. Before achieving her associate professorship she worked in Copenhagen for two years on a Freja Stipend. She lives in the Malmö suburb of Lomma with her Spanish/Swedish husband and three daughters.