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Single Molecule Microscopy for Cancer Therapy

As you may know, cancer is caused by a glitch in cellular growth. Many different types of cancers exist and cancer cells present various malfunctioning biochemical pathways. Protein-protein interactions (PPI) compose those biochemical pathways and the cascades of PPI are altered in cancer cells. Understanding these proteins and their behavior is essential to the development of future cancer therapies.

In my time at the Kyoung lab I have learned that a new area of focus in the research relating to cellular function revolves around transient PPI. Transient interactions are weak and short-lived interactions. The research I am involved with is focused on developing a novel method to examine these protein-protein interactions. To study this, molecules will be trapped in vesicle “nano-chambers” (Figure 1) and monitored using a single molecule fluorescence microscope. By engineering a system where multiple single molecules are trapped and probed in small volumes using fusion methods, it will be possible to examine the mechanisms of specific transient protein-protein interactions. Using this method, the lab hopes to identify what specific proteins play a role in cancer development, as well as examine the dynamics of the interactions taking place. With this knowledge, there is potential to manipulate the proteins in ways to treat cancer effectively.




Figure 1. Many types of cancer result from alteration in signaling pathways have a major role in tumor progression. Nano-reaction chamber reconstitutes critical transient protein-protein interactions and enables us to quantitatively characterize them at the single molecule level.

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