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Searching for Blood Substitutes

Sarah Roessler at the 2016 American Chemical Society National Meeting & Exposition in San Diego.

Sarah Roessler at the 2016 American Chemical Society National Meeting & Exposition in San Diego.

Sarah Roessler (chemistry ’16) is on the leading edge of the search for blood substitutes administered in treating traumatic injuries.  Her research on click reactions in certain polymers used in these substitutes is the focus of her thesis and a recent presentation at the American Chemical Society (ACS) in San Diego. Roessler’s poster presentation in the Chemical Education Division (CHED) provided an overview of her research project, titled “Incorporation of TEMPO and PEG functionalities into ROMP polymers via click reaction.”

This research focused on the development of ROMP (Ring Opening Metathesis Polymerization) polymers containing the functional groups 2,2,6,6-tetramethylpiperdin-1-oxyl (TEMPO) and polyethylene glycol (PEG). Both of these functional groups are known to have a detoxifying effect on cell-free hemoglobin and effect vasodilation in the bloodstream.

“This was interesting to me because, when bonded to cell-free hemoglobin, the polymers may be useful for the treatment of severe traumatic brain injuries as they convert the reactive oxygen species (ROS), in particular the superoxide anion, released by the cell-free hemoglobin into less harmful species,” said Roessler. “Such modified hemoglobin solutions could be used as a blood substitute with a better shelf life than donor blood, also while possessing a high compatibility with any recipient.”

Presenting at the conference gave Roessler the opportunity to meet many like-minded scholars in her field, including other individuals who were interested in the polymer aspect and the click reaction of her project.

“I encountered someone who was also working with click reactions, but to create dual-action antibiotics, which shows how important researching this type of method is for the future of healthcare,” said Roessler. “I also met a representative from the University of Kansas who was interested in my research and approached me about graduate school.”

In addition to networking opportunities, ACS provided Roessler with the chance to interact with vendors and companies looking to hire new graduates. One of her favorite parts of the conference involved exhibitors showcasing new technological developments related to scientific equipment.

“I was most fascinated by the laboratory robotics being developed to perform many advanced functions related to experimentation and research,” Roessler said.

Perhaps one of the best perks of presenting research in San Diego was getting to experience the city itself. In her free time, Roessler visited such iconic spots as Coronado Beach and the San Diego Zoo, adding a touch of biology to an otherwise chemistry-centric trip.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to attend my first ACS National meeting and visit the beautiful city of San Diego,” said Roessler. “This experience allowed me to appreciate the ability to network with peers and experts in chemistry and related disciplines as well as further broaden my appreciation for scientific research.”


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