Toulou Shokuhfar

  • PhD Mechanical Engineering 2011

Far below the acuity of human sight, the mysteries of neurodegeneration and other chronic diseases await the discovery that leads to prevention and cure. Dr. Tolou Shokuhfar is conducting research on ferritin, a protein within the body, to unveil the differences between healthy and dysfunctional ferritins.

When properly functioning, ferritins convert toxic ferrous irons to safe iron minerals that are stored in the core of the protein and later released when our body requires additional iron sources. Dysfunctional ferritins can cause iron toxicity, which can contribute to neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Shokuhfar is able to examine the hydrated protein samples under an aberrationcorrected scanning transmission electron microscope using a new technique she has developed. This method encapsulates the sample with a nano-scale graphene bubble that keeps water in place and allows electrons to pass through freely. Because the samples are not frozen, her team can watch how the sample reacts when iron ions are introduced.

Shokufar’s research may help healthcare professionals identify disease signatures and may lead to the development of new approaches to treatment.

This profile appeared in the Michigan Tech Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics 2013-14 Annual Report