Research

Biomedical Glycobiology

Glycobiology is a rapidly expanding area of research that is being harnessed to develop new biomarkers for a range of diseases such as cancer and diabetes. A current goal of the CMM Biomedical Glycobiology Program is to understand basic aspects of how glycans form and how they are regulated in development and disease. This information will be instructive in the development of new biomarkers for human disease.

Human Disease Models

The Center uses a broad range of approaches towards understanding the molecular and cellular basis of human disease. These included the use of animal models, cell culture and stem cell based approaches and high throughput drug screening/drug discovery (in conjunction with the UGA Center for Drug Discovery). The Center has a broad interest in human health including the development of new therapies and diagnostics in areas relating to infectious disease, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, neurological disease, ageing, cancer and immune-related conditions.

Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine

This program has strong interests in the basic biology of pluripotent cells. These studies will help understand more about early stages of embryonic development and are directed towards a better understanding of cell cycle control, the pluripotent state and cell fate decisions made by pluripotent cells. A second major effort is dedicated towards developing cell therapies for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and neurological disorders. Finally, the CMM Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Program has interests in using iPSC technology to model human disease- those of current interest include pediatric heart defects (truncus arteriosis), craniofacial disease (Treacher-Collins Syndrome) and intestinal agangliosis (Herschsprung’s Disease).

Vaccine Development & Therapeutics

The worldwide eradication of polio is one of the main focus areas for the Vaccine Development and Therapeutics Program. Although polio has disappeared from the Western Hemisphere and Europe, the virus still permanently cripples children in Africa and Asia every year.

The problem is mediated by the vaccine used to prevent the disease – the oral polio vaccine (OPV). This vaccine uses weakened viruses to elicit immunity against the three strains of polio known as types 1, 2 and 3. Ongoing vaccination would not be worrisome if the viruses in the oral vaccine were benign; however, the weakened viruses can revert to wild type disease-causing pathogens and provoke the very illness they are meant to prevent. In places where wild poliovirus is still a threat, the risk from natural infection is greater than the small hazard the vaccine poses. However, to eradicate poliovirus the world must switch to an expensive, alternative vaccine used in wealthier nations that consists of an injected formulation of inactivated, or “killed,” viruses known as IPV. All viruses, including poliovirus, utilize host cell genes and machinery to replicate. At the same time, infected cells including vaccine cell lines, express gene products to interfere or resist virus replication.

The aim of our research is to increase production of polio virus vaccine by silencing non-essential virus resistance genes in a vaccine cell line, thereby reducing costs and increasing polio vaccine availability.This study directly addresses the post-eradication challenge of the high cost of IPV manufacturing.