Chemistry and Biochemistry

Dr. Emily Bates: Running and Research

Posted: Aug 08, 2012

In her spare time between researching cancer and migraine drugs, mapping genes, and teaching chemistry classes Professor Emily Bates still has time to run marathons, and win them.

 Professor Bates is currently working on three very exciting research projects. The first project concerns Ectodermal Dysplasia, a dominantly inherited disease. Ectodermal Dysplasia causes digit and nail disfiguration, abnormal teeth, abnormal hair growth (i.e. eyebrows are backwards), dysfunctional tear ducts, and abnormal face patterning. Bates is working with a specific family with this disease in order to find the mutation responsible for the defect. Bates has recently collected DNA samples from the family and will soon begin sequencing the genes in order to find the specific mutation.
A second research project concerns the blocking of a potassium channel. A specific gene mutation was mapped to the blocking of a potassium channel. For the first time this potassium channel has been related to development and when it is blocked causes abnormalities as those of Ectodermal Dysplasia. “Our paper was just accepted by a journal called Development” says Bates, “It’s really exciting!” This paper shows that the potassium channel is important in the patterning of wings in flies and limbs and facial structures in people and mice. Through this research Bates discovered that this potassium channel is also present in cancer cells and contributes to the cells growth and spreading. Bates is using her knowledge of the gene mutation that blocks the potassium channel in order to research potential cancer drugs.
Bates’ third research project has to do with a much more common disease: migraines. Bates has isolated the mutation that causes dominantly inherited migrates to Casein Kinase I d. She has now created mice with this mutant form of Casein Kinase I dand is using them to find potential drugs to treat migraines.
In the midst of all this groundbreaking research Bates has still been able to place 2nd in the Salt Lake City Half Marathon, 1st in the Provo City Half Marathon, and 1st in the Utah Valley Marathon, and that has just been this year. Bates started running at Timp View High school where she was recruited by the track coach. Bates continued to run at the University of Utah through the end of her freshmen year when she left the team and started running marathons. In graduate school she ran a marathon in which she finished 1 minute slower than the Olympic Trials qualifying time. In 2008 Bates tried to qualify for the Olympics, but again barely missed the cutoff. Instead, she ran on the US team in the Greatest Race on Earth where the US team won 1st in the regional races and 10th worldwide.
By Rachael Roselle
Photos courtesy of Emily Bates