Ahwatukee Horizon Honors High School graduate and University of Arizona undergraduate Tarik Ozumerzifon participated in a program this summer called the Undergraduate Biology Research Program (UBRP). UBRP is designed to train young researchers through involving them in hands-on research. For the past two months, Tarik has worked in the research laboratory of Dr. Eugene Mash, UA professor of chemistry. His project aims to develop a new and more effective magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) contrast agent.

Patients afflicted with many forms of cancer undergo an MRI procedure to visualize the tumor. In order to perform this, a heavy metal such as gadolinium must be injected into the patient. This can lead to problems because gadolinium is toxic to the human body and after injection is not directed toward tumor sites.

Tarik's research ultimately aims to reduce the number of heavy metal poisonings as well as related deaths by targeting gadolinium delivery to the tumor, minimizing the amount of gadolinium that must be administered. This summer, Tarik synthesized a number of intermediates en route to the target compound, a cyclen derivative.

"The final product is a molecule which can essentially hold the metal until it reaches a tumor region and be delivered," Tarik said. "After this is produced, it will be very innovative and useful.

"We have made significant progress towards the final goal. I am very excited to see how the chemistry being done here will affect biology and medicine."

Tarik will graduate in the spring of 2012 with a bachelor's degree in chemistry and minors in Spanish and Turkish. Funding for the UBRP program is provided in part by a grant to the University of Arizona from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). Funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) provides additional support for Tarik in the Mash research group.

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