A researcher at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) has been awarded a $540,250 grant from the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, to support continued research into the collagen degradative processes linked to connective tissue diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS).
Dr. Gregg Fields, a professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at FAU, and director of its Center for Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, will use the award to develop new models to study these processes and, possibly, new agents to treat them.
Connective tissue diseases, or collagen-based diseases, involve the tissue that supports organs and other tissues, such as cartilage and bone. Connective tissue is mainly composed of two proteins, collagen and elastin. Collagen degradation and abnormalities have been associated with a number of key pathologies, from MS to cancer and sepsis.
Dr. Fields’ laboratory focuses on the development of models of collagen degradation, which have helped to identify key molecular mechanisms. The scientist has also spent the last 15 years investigating the use of chemical approaches to better understand how protein three-dimensional structures influence cellular and enzymatic behaviors.
A special focus is the role of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), long known to be potential targets for a series of pathological events, including post-myocardial infarction remodeling, tumor metastasis, periodontitis, osteoarthritis, inflammation, vascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, and neuropsychiatric disorders.
“This NIH grant will allow us to continue our work to examine the role of MMPs in diseases like MS, since several MMPs are known to degrade collagen,” said Dr. Fields in a news release.
Dr. Fields is a fellow of both the National Academy of Inventors and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He holds seven U.S. patents, has authored more than 250 scientific publications, and has participated in 13 National Institute of Health R01 grants, either as a principal investigator or co-principal investigator.
“Dr Fields is one of our most distinguished and accomplished scientists at Florida Atlantic University, and this grant will enable him to continue his lifesaving work to develop treatments for some of the most devastating diseases and conditions that afflict us globally,” said Janet Blanks, PhD, interim dean of FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science.