Welcome to Section on Physical Biochemistry @ NICHD.NIH

Our mission is to develop methods for diagnostics, monitoring and treatment of diseases based on better understanding their molecular mechanisms. We focus on the following studies:

Extracellular Matrix Disorders: Molecular Mechanisms and Treatment Targets

The extracellular matrix (ECM) is responsible for the structural integrity of tissues and organs as well as for maintaining an optimal environment for cellular function. ECM pathology is involved in a wide variety of disorders, ranging from rare genetic abnormalities of skeletal development (skeletal dysplasias) to such common ailments as osteoporosis, fibrosis, and cancer. Collagens are triple-helical proteins forming the structural scaffolds of the ECM. The most common collagen is type I, which is by far the most abundant protein in all vertebrates. Type I collagen fibers form the organic scaffold of bone, tendons, ligaments, and the matrix of skin and many other tissues. Mutations in type I collagen cause osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), a skeletal dysplasia characterized by bone fragility and deformities. We focus on translational and mechanistic studies of OI, other skeletal dysplasias, and related ECM disorders caused by abnormal metabolism of key ECM molecules, particularly type I collagen and ECM proteoglycans. Our goal is to investigate collagen and proteoglycan metabolism pathology in these disorders, understand the underlying molecular mechanisms, identify treatment targets, and develop novel therapeutic approaches.

High-Definition Micro-Spectroscopy and Analysis of Biomaterials

To obtain further insights into mechanisms of these diseases, we utilize our recent technological advances in infrared and Raman micro-spectroscopic imaging of collagen, proteoglycans and other crucial components in bone and cartilage. Building on these advances, we are developing high-definition, label-free hyperspectral imaging technology for real-time monitoring of homeostasis and biochemical reactions in solvated tissue sections and live cell cultures.

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