The groups focus is on understanding structure function relationships of amphiphilic bioactive molecules and the design of new biomaterials. The group is multidisciplinary and draws on a range of specialisms including, biology, (cell biology and microbiology), chemistry (biochemistry, synthetic chemistry), physics (biophysics, nano physics) and computational modelling to:
Interest in amphiphilic molecules.
A major problem facing medical science is the increasing occurrence of resistance to antimicrobial and anticancer agents, which has led to the need for new lead compounds in strategies of drug design. Such agents need to be able to target specific cells and disrupt their function hence efficacy can be reduced by either poor selectivity or poor activity at the target site.
A key feature of interest is the membrane surrounding the cell since this maybe the target site for any new agent or if not it will need to be traversed for the agent to reach the cell interior. These membranes form a phospholipid barrier around the cell and exhibit a hydrophobic interior and hydrophilic exterior. The function of many biologically active molecules is therefore dependent upon their own amphiphilic structure either because the membrane is the site of action or because it is their physicochemical characteristics that will determine their translocation across the bilayer and their subsequent compartmentalization within the cell. Currently, the main focus for our group’s interest is therefore to investigate the structure function relationships underpinning the membrane interactions of known biologically active molecules and the role of amphiphilicity in the activity of such biomolecules.
Work is currently focused in two areas. The first is investigation into the properties of membrane interactive peptides such as antimicrobial peptides – a number of which have also been seen to exhibit anticancer properties. The second involves the creation of synthetic amphiphilic molecules which may have potential in the targeting and destruction of bacterial cells or tumour cells. Investigations of this kind can not only give insight into the functionality of the molecules themselves but as we gain understanding of how they cause lysis we can apply this knowledge to aid our understanding of a wide range of key biological processes that require on-going membrane fusion and lysis events.
The following books and edited collections are available:
Lab featured in Bachem PEPTalk
9 February 2013
Our lab was recently featured in Bachem PEPtalk. This is a regular newsletter produced by Bachem – a major international biochemical technology company.
Professor Zhirong Zhang visits UCLan
26 January 2013
Zhirong Zhang is a Distinguished Professor and Dean of the West China School of Pharmacy, Sichuan University. He is Director of the state funded key laboratory for drug targeting and began working with us on drug delivery systems in 2010. As well as a tour of our laboratory we discussed the potential of peptide amphiphiles for drug targeting and outlined a new project in this area to start this summer. We also heard that one of our other collaborators, Xun Sun, has now been made a full professor and send her our congratulations. I look forward to meeting them in April when I will visit his laboratory in Sichuan.
Dr. Alexandre Quintas visits from Portugal
15 January 2013
Dr. Alexandre Quintas has worked with our group for a number of years looking at the potential for amyloid formation to play a role in antimicrobial peptide (AMP) function.
He obtained his doctorate in Chemical Biology from the University of Coimbre. and is now an Associate Professor from Egas Moniz, Health Science Institute and Group Leader from the Molecular Pathology Laboratory based in Portugal. His main research field is in protein, folding, misfolding and aggregation. More recently he has been applying molecular modeling and docking techniques to HIV research, being awarded with the Pfizer price for clinical research in 2012. He has published more than 50 publications in his field of expertise and is the editor of the main Portuguese Biochemistry Text Book (Bioquímica: Organização Molecular da Vida).
He will be spending a few weeks in our laboratory looking at AMP aggregation properties.