3121 New Science Facility
I am interested in cell surface receptor proteins. My favorite receptor protein is the low density lipoprotein receptor-related protein (LRP). LRP is an exciting protein to study because no one really knows why it exists in our bodies. Some of the clues we have about possible functions are LRP helps cells take up circulating lipids, it is involved in the production of "foam cells" (precursors of cells that become arterial plaques), and it is found in the plaques that are abundant in brains of people with Alzheimer's disease. I would love to know the end of the story about LRP; why do we have it and what is its main purpose in our bodies? Is it helping or hindering the body's repair process in Alzheimer's disease? To get at these questions I have begun establishing a C. elegans model system in which these receptors can be studied. C. elegans is a primitive worm and it contains the worm version of some of the human receptors.
I am also interested in the physical nature of the binding between receptors and their ligands. I am using biocalorimetry to look at how ligands bind to receptors. These studies may eventually lead to ideas about drug candidates for these receptors.