What Makes Cells Switch Disease On and Off?
Dr. Frank Sicheri is looking inside human cells to discover what switches a disease on, and, ultimately, how to switch it back off.
The human genome houses some 500 “protein kinases.” These molecules act as switches inside cells. The switches regulate various biological processes—from breathing to eating and digesting. When genes inside the cell become mutated, however, the protein kinases start to function abnormally. These abnormalities, in turn, lead to the cellular dysfunctions that cause many of the diseases humans can face, such as cancer. So, the more we know about protein kinases, the more we can learn about disease.
To date, researchers have only investigated a small fraction of the protein kinases encoded in the human genome in great detail. As Canada Research Chair in Structural Principles of Signal Transduction, Sicheri will study more of the protein kinases in the human genome.
Sicheri’s research is aimed at furthering our understanding about protein kinase regulation. He is particularly focused on understanding the underlying structural mechanism responsible for “signalling function,” or how these proteins talk to one another.
Sicheri’s long-term goal is to use new knowledge about protein kinases and associated systems to develop drugs to treat human diseases, including various types of cancer.