We are a biochemistry-focused research group in the Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences at Colorado Mesa University. Our researchers are outstanding undergraduate students. Currently, our research projects can be divided into several exciting themes, with some overlap between them:
1. Novel antidiabetic therapeutics
While there are currently several “gold standard” drugs on the market for type 2 diabetes mellitus– such as metformin or Glucophage™ — they are not without their respective risks and side-effects. We are especially interested in discovering and characterizing new agents that can be used in the fight against diabetes and other diseases, and determining whether they are improved relative to existing pharmaceutical and nutraceutical agents.
2. Metabolic regulation by signal transduction and post-translational modification
Post-translational modification (PTM) is a hallmark of metabolic regulation. Protein structure and function can be rapidly and reversibly modulated by the addition or removal of small chemical groups, such as phosphoryl groups in the case of protein phosphorylation. Typically, these PTMs are part of a cascade, linking target proteins (e.g. glycolytic enzymes, gluconeogenic enzymes, etc.) to a receptor (e.g. the insulin receptor) via multiple relay enzymes — a process known as signal transduction. We are especially interested in how signal transduction can go awry in human diseases and how proper function can be restored — particularly as it pertains to insulin resistance (leading to type 2 diabetes) and reversal of that resistance by naturally-occurring and synthetic bioactive agents.
3. Medical devices and other biotechnologies
In addition to fundamental or basic research, our expertise also includes or applied research — this stems from past work at Micropharma Ltd, a biotech startup that was acquired by UAS Labs in December 2014. Past and current projects have involved the development of gut-friendly probiotics targeted against specific diseases — including diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, and liver disease. Addition work included the development of a gaseous nitric oxide-generating medical dressing with wound-healing and antimicrobial/anti-biofilm activity. Thus, amidst our fundamental research work, we always have translational and entrepreneurial goals in mind.
4. Nanomaterial-biomolecule interactions, nanotoxicology and nanopharmacology
Engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) are the core component of most modern-day nanotechnologies. With increasing use, there is elevated risk that ENMs are improperly disposed of and accidentally released into the environment. At the nanoscale, ENMs are at a comparable biological scale to subcellular biomolecules such as large proteins; they therefore have the ability to penetrate living cells and influence their physiology — potentially in a deleterious manner. We therefore study the mechanisms by which ENMs are nanotoxic — but by the same token, we also investigate how ENMs can be safely exploited as delivery vehicles to biological compartments (i.e. cell-specific targeting).