Dr Marcin Drąg (phot. Mateusz Augustyn)
Marcin Drąg, PhD, DSc, with his team from the Wrocław University of Technology Faculty of Chemistry has received, as part of the “Harmonia” programme, a grant from the National Science Centre for research on enzymes that facilitates the diagnostics of many diseases. The grant, amounting to over 1 million PLN, will allow to continue the research and initiate cooperation with international research centres
The project for which the team received the grant is entitled “Research on selective markers for the imaging of active neutrophil serine proteases.” Proteases, or proteolytic enzymes, “cut” chemical bonds in proteins, in this way controlling the metabolism. They include enzymes that remove harmful proteins from body cells. If the level or activity of these proteases is inappropriate, we pick up various diseases. For instance, we know enzymes whose activity disorders cause diabetes, cancer, hypertension or neurodegenerative diseases. Marcin Drąg’s team (Marcin Poręba, DSc, and Paulina Kasperkiewicz, DSc) developed the so-called hybrid library of protease markers (HyCoSuL – from Hybrid Combinatorial Substrate Library), containing over 100 amino-acids, both natural, and unnatural (i.e. obtained by organic synthesis). They are used to examine protease activity, which makes them eligible for diagnostic purposes. These markers are much more sensitive than the traditional ones. Last year, the HyCoSuL was described in PNAS – a prestigious American scientific journal.
“The paper published last year in PNAS had a very good reception.” – says Marcin Drąg – “Many research groups wanted to cooperate with us, for example: Monash University from Australia, La Trobe University from Melbourne, Australia, Prof. Mathew Bogyo’s group from Stanford University or a group from Technical Universität München. The project rewarded by National Science Centre is an extension of our research so far, as at the beginning we focused on one enzyme whereas now we know there are four such enzymes. We plan to design a Tool-box that will allow to examine them. For this purpose, we can use the technology we have already developed. Our team will perform all the work on the chemical part, including the combinatorial libraries. Then, the biological part – “inserting” the system to neutrophils – will be performed in cooperation with Prof. Guy Salvesen’s team from Sanford Burnham Medical Research Institute in San Diego, USA. Two our doctoral students will go for training to San Diego. They will conduct experiments there and because their laboratory is multi-purpose, they will be able to learn new methods and apply them at our laboratories.
For me, a great advantage of our cooperation with San Diego is that the American researchers are willing to share with us their imaging technologies. This is rare in such projects. Together with Prof. Guy Salvesen’s team, we have published already 30 common papers, but so far we haven’t had financing for a common project. In fact, this one will be first and I am very happy about that.”
Translation: Dariusz Więcławski