MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (09/11/2012) --University of Minnesota chemist Christy Haynes has been named one of Popular Science magazine's "Brilliant 10," an honor that recognizes an elite group of young scientists whose research is expected to dramatically impact their fields. Haynes' profile was published today on the PopSci website and is featured in the Popular Science magazine now on newsstands.
Haynes, an associate professor of chemistry in the University's College of Science and Engineering, has been working with her research group to study blood platelets. Platelets are small, irregularly shaped cell fragments that circulate in the blood and are an essential component of blood clotting. Platelets are about one-tenth the size of average cells in mammals and have proven difficult to study due their small size and their biological function to react immediately when in a foreign environment.
"Platelets are really 'sticky' types of cells because they are used in clotting so it makes them difficult to study," Haynes said.
Haynes and her team are the only researchers in the world who have been able to measure chemicals being released by individual platelets in real time. They were the first to successfully isolate an individual platelet under a microscope, place a minuscule electrode onto it, and measure the messenger molecules released.
Understanding how platelets communicate with each other gives researchers fundamental knowledge they never had before. This could lead to new treatments for patients who have difficulty with blood clotting or developing medications to help patients avoid dangerous blood clots.
Haynes is already collaborating with renowned platelet specialists nationwide to look at platelet samples and conduct initial lab testing for possible anti-clotting medicines.
"Being chosen as one of Popular Science's Brilliant 10 brings new recognition to the graduate students on my research team and my fellow researchers to show that there is big science and big thinking going on here at the University of Minnesota," Haynes said.
Haynes and her colleagues recently formed the Center for Analysis of Biomolecular Signalling within the University of Minnesota Department of Chemistry. The research will be focused on learning more about how cells in the body send chemical signals to each other during immune response, blood clotting, muscle firing and more.
In addition to studying platelets, Haynes has been building "an immune system on a chip," where she is isolating and studying the various way cells communicate and respond to each other. With more information about how immune cells interact, she helps to open new avenues for treating allergic reactions and asthma.
"This recognition of Christy's groundbreaking work is certainly well-deserved," said University of Minnesota Department of Chemistry Chair William Tolman. "Her creativity, attention to detail, and outstanding communication and leadership skills underlie her success as a faculty member and scientist."