Understanding Proteolysis: The Body’s Early Warning System for Disease
Scissor-like enzymes called proteases nip and tuck proteins found in the human body through a process known as proteolysis (the breakdown of proteins into smaller polypeptides or amino acids). The products of proteolysis—called proteolytic signatures—often offer telltale signs of disease and infection much earlier than traditional medical diagnosis can detect them. As Canada Research Chair in Protease Proteomics and Systems Biology, Dr. Chris Overall is trying to better understand proteolysis in order to shed new light on diseases and develop new treatments.
Overall has already developed techniques to identify key infection and inflammatory disease proteolysis signatures. This discovery provided insights into the molecular mechanisms that are part of infections and inflammatory diseases like chorioamnionitis, preterm birth, viral and bacterial infections, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, and cancer.
Overall and his research team are developing a new drug to boost the body's own immune response to viral infections. They are also identifying new anti-viral and anti-inflammatory drugs, as well as biomarkers that could be involved in preventing, diagnosing and treating conditions like arthritis, periodontitis and preterm labour.
Through his proteomics research, Overall is trying to improve our knowledge of how the human body encodes information in cells, tissues and organs, and how this encoding process can go wrong in disease. He hopes this research will generate a better understanding of how to control inflammation and lead to new ways to fight viral infections.