Proteins are the workhorses of the cell, and their function depends on their shape.
When proteins are misfolded or damaged, their shape becomes flawed and they can’t perform their duties. Faulty proteins need to be eliminated before they accumulate, clump or become toxic. Although there are intrinsic cell mechanisms that recognize defective proteins and attempt to remove them, these systems go awry as we age. Almost every age-related degenerative disease is linked to protein misfolding.
Our focus is on understanding how cells discriminate between functional and nonfunctional proteins. We have made important discoveries about the damaging impact of oxidative stress on protein structure and function in the neurodegenerative diseases of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, metabolic diseases of diabetes and liver failure, and inflammatory disease and cancer. Our findings will be translated into new therapies that improve protein folding and preserve cell function in diseases that are major worldwide health concerns.
– Randal J. Kaufman, Ph.D., Program Director
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