Forging New Tools to Identify and Manipulate Cellular Machinery Gone Awry
Our bodies are driven by a coordinated assembly of microscopic biological machines—or biomolecules—including enzymes and active small molecules. Abnormal changes in the activities of these biomolecules are responsible for diseases ranging from cancer to heart disease to neurodegeneration.
Current therapies often target abnormal biomolecular activities to restore healthy cell function. But the malfunctioning of these molecular machines occurs well before any outward signs or symptoms of disease—meaning that disease could be detected or treated much earlier if these subcellular biomolecules could be directly measured or modulated.
As Canada Research Chair in Chemical Biology, Dr. Adam Shuhendler is using innovative chemistry to improve our ability to identify abnormal activity in biomolecules and prevent disease. He is forging a “molecular machinist’s toolbox” to create images of active biomolecules gone awry and curb their abnormal activities.
Using powerful imaging methods, such as positron emission tomography (PET) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), Shuhendler and his research team are designing smart molecules that respond to changes in the function of specific biological targets, and looking for new ways to modulate and monitor these menacing biomolecules.
Shuhendler’s “toolbox” will allow for the serial molecular investigation and modulation of the chemical biology of disease in living beings. It will also push the boundaries of our understanding of disease, and has the potential to improve human health by making innovative tools clinically accessible.