Page 28

ONCOLOGY & CELL BIOLOGY

CVM IMPACT | 28

by Sara Carney

Dr. Stephen Safe

IT’S SAFE TO SAY, IMPACT

BEGINS AT DISCOVERY Discovery and the unexpected—these are recurring themes in the research career of Dr. Stephen Safe, a distinguished professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). Trained as a chemist, Safe eventually found himself studying toxicology and examining the biochemical mechanisms of cancer with the hopes of developing effective drug treatments. Safe looks at receptors, a molecular lock to which chemical signals are the keys. When these chemical signals bind to the receptor, or turn the metaphorical key, it leads to a Rube Goldberg-like process, where one action affects another and then another, ultimately powering various biological processes.

“Receptors are needed for life,” Safe said. “They are sensing molecules. They sense light. For example, you need sunlight to produce Vitamin D. What does Vitamin D do? It would do nothing if there wasn’t a Vitamin D receptor.” And, it all started with a single receptor—the aryl hydrocarbon, or AH, receptor. Known to play a role in a chemical’s toxicity in the body, the AH receptor was not known for its health benefits. However, research trends led Safe and his colleagues to suspect that this receptor’s function was far from black and white. There were, in fact, health benefits yet to be uncovered. “I started off working on toxic compounds that bound to the AH receptor. It was always thought to be a receptor that was important for

CVM Impact - Fall 2016  

CVM Impact is a special publications from the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) that focuses on the resea...

CVM Impact - Fall 2016  

CVM Impact is a special publications from the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) that focuses on the resea...