UTHSC hosts Fulbright Scholar examining melatonin


The Health Science Center was selected to host a Fulbright Scholar who will examine the correlation between the hormone melatonin and its effects on memory and learning.

Fatih Gultekin, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of biochemistry at Suleyman Demirel University, School of Medicine in Isparta, Turkey, joined the lab of Russel Reiter, Ph.D., last month. Dr. Reiter, professor of cellular and structural biology at the Health Science Center, is world famous for his breakthrough studies involving melatonin.

“I specifically selected to do my studies at the Health Science Center because of Dr. Reiter,” Dr. Gultekin said. “He is very well known all around the world. I’m extremely honored to have this opportunity to work with the best.”

Dr. Gultekin is the third Fulbright Scholar the Health Science Center has hosted in the past two years. Recipients of the prestigious Fulbright award are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement and because they’ve demonstrated extraordinary leadership potential in their fields.

“I’ve had the opportunity to work with several foreign researchers in my lab,” Dr. Reiter said. “It is a pleasure for me to host Dr. Gultekin, as well. He is a scholarly individual with strong dedication and determination.”

Melatonin is like the body’s biological clock – it organizes an individual’s sleeping mode and is produced especially at night. Its secretion is stimulated by the dark and inhibited by light, and has become a popular therapy for jet lag and sleep disturbances.

Dr. Gultekin is studying the effects melatonin has on NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptors in the brain. These receptors, located in the hippocampus, are related to learning and memory.

“We already know that melatonin has effects on learning and memory but we don’t know how,” Dr. Gultekin said. “That’s why I’m studying these receptors. I’m looking for a correlation between them and melatonin.”

Hosting a Fulbright Scholar helps strengthen a university’s international program, as well as adding a multicultural dimension to the traditional curriculum.

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