New Resonance Machine to Aid in Wide-Ranging Research

New Resonance Machine to Aid in Wide-Ranging Research

The arrival of a $400,000 BiaCore Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR) instrument has granted Creighton University researchers the ability to study more closely how proteins and drugs interact, knowledge that could boost efforts to understand and treat a wide range of human diseases.

Gopal Jadhav, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Neuroscience at the Creighton University School of Medicine, says Creighton is alone among Nebraska medical institutions to possess the high-powered investigatory medical instrument.

Jadhav is among seven interdisciplinary medical researchers drawn from the Creighton School of Medicine and School of Pharmacy and Health Professions who are using the instrument to cast greater light on human diseases and disorders. His particular project involves studying inflammatory diseases and devising ways to use drug-like molecules to inhibit proteins that promote inflammation. Inflammation is increasingly believed to be responsible for a range of human maladies that include arthritis, cardiovascular and neuromuscular diseases, infectious diseases and other often fatal illnesses.

The SPR instrument was purchased with an grant, funded by the National Science Foundation. The EpSCoR program, which stands for Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, was founded in 1979 over concerns that federal research funds were being awarded to too few states and that ambitious researchers in other parts of the country were being deprived of opportunities to pursue scientific research.

Jadhav’s investigation is one of several BiaCore SPR projects being pursued by Creighton researchers.

Jian Zuo, PhD, chairman of the biomedical science department at the School of Medicine, will study the proteins involved in hearing loss, which he says currently affects about 465 million people worldwide, some 34 million of whom are children. Despite longstanding and ongoing efforts in the scientific community, Zuo says, there are no FDA-approved drugs for hearing loss. He hopes the BiaCore SPR instrument will help remedy this by allowing closer examination of proteins responsible for hair cell damage and bring potential drugs to clinical trials.

Jay Bhatt, PhD, a research scientist in protein biochemistry and cell biology at the School of Medicine, will use the BiaCore SPR to investigate neurodegenerative diseases and mental disabilities related to a genetic defect that impairs proper protein movement. Identifying the proteins that interact with the genetic defect could hold hope for a cure, he says.

Yaping Tu, PhD, professor of pharmacology, will address childhood asthma, which often continues into adulthood. The presence of an overabundance of nerves in airways is a condition that can be caused by early-life exposure to contaminants such as cigarette smoke, Tu says. His research will use the BiaCore SPR instrument to monitor how various FDA-approved drugs interact with proteins and how drugs might better inhibit abnormal nerve growth in airways.

Sandor Lovas, PhD, professor in the School of Medicine, and Laura Hansen, PhD, associate dean for research in the School of Medicine, will target squamous cell carcinoma, a common form of skin cancer.

Lovas says skin cancer growth employs proteins that inhibit the death of cancer cells. The BiaCore SPR research will investigate ways of disrupting the interactions between these protective proteins, thus allowing the cancer cells to die.

Over at the Creighton School of Pharmacy and Health Professions, Alekha Dash, RPH, PhD, will use the BiaCore SPR to enhance his investigations of nanotechnologies and how nanoparticles may be used to enhance the efficiency of drug targeting and delivery. Nanotechnology deals with dimensions less than 100 nanometers, especially the manipulation of individual atoms and molecules. Manipulation of these ultra-microscopic entities — there are 100,000 nanometers in the thickness of a single sheet of newspaper — represents one of the major medical advances of the 21st century.

Finally, Shashak Dravid, PhD, associate professor in the School of Medicine and a specialist in pharmacology and neuroscience, will use the BiaCore SPR to identify the regulatory properties of key proteins in neurons, neural synapses and circuits, and their effects on neurological and behavioral aspects in humans.