Online Originals: ECU students, faculty conducting research that may lead to therapeutic implications for patients of Alzheimer’s, stroke

Online Originals

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) Students and faculty at ECU are conducting cross-disciplinary collaborative research that may have future therapeutic implications for those affected by heart attacks, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease.

The collaboration is between Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, College of Allied Health Sciences and Brody School of Medicine.

The researchers are examining two different sets of proteins in the human body that can form clusters in Alzheimer’s disease. The same proteins also cluster in traumatic events like strokes and heart attacks.

Dr. Robert Hughes, an assistant professor of biological chemistry in the Department of Chemistry at ECU, is just one of the researchers working on this project.

The research team includes students from chemistry and physical therapy and other ECU faculty.

The group has created a tool called the CofActor system. It uses light to trigger the formation of the clusters, allowing them to study what the clusters do once formed.

“We’ve developed a light-activated system for investigating a protein interaction that’s important to the progression of neurodegenerative disease,” said Dr. Hughes.

He says there have been several other attempts at developing the therapeutic compounds, but they have failed.

“It’s important to try to cast as wide a net as possible to try to find other solutions to this problem,” said Dr. Hughes.

Another part of the research seeks to demonstrate which amino acids in the two proteins are necessary for the stress response, and the different types and levels of stress needed for the clusters to form.

The research is an advance on currently available technology and is a tool that’s not available anywhere else right now. According to Hughes it is “fairly significant.”

The research is currently undergoing peer review for publication.

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