Biochemistry Research Examines Cell Death

Dr. Adele Addington's research could lead to a better understanding of diseases such as cancer and Alzheimers

To cure such diseases as cancer and Alzheimers a better understanding of apoptosis, or programmed cell death, is required. Researchers such as Dr. Adele Addington, biochemistry professor, are doing just that.

For the past seven years Addington has researched apoptosis. If the enzymes, catalyzing proteins, and their roles in apoptosis were known, effective medications and techniques could be developed. This detailed understanding would lead to a prevention or treatment of neurodegenerative disease, immunoinflammatory disease and many others.

Until recently, only caspases, a type of protein-cutting enzymes, were recognized as being involved in apoptosis. However, research has indicated that non-caspase enzymes, granzyme B and capthesin B may be involved. If proven true, this could change the entire understanding of apoptosis.

What Research is Involved?
Most of Addington's research is focused on determining what enzymes react with common tools used to identify caspases. Much of the early research on apoptosis used a class of inhibitors of caspases thought to only interact with the caspases. Recent work in Addington's lab, as well as others in the apoptosis field, shows that other important cellular enzymes also interact very strongly with these inhibitors. As such, the conclusions drawn from experiments using these tools may not be entirely accurate.

Much data has been gathered, but the difficulty lies in obtaining accurate, repetitive results. Currently both PANC-1 and Jurkat cells are being used for in-vivo work. These two cell lines are easy to work with, while providing a variety of uses. Using the Jurkat cells, a student is inducing apoptosis and measuring the caspase activity level. Another student is studying different methods of inducing apoptosis in the PANC-1 cells.

Students involved in the project utilize cell culture, flourometric assaying, and many other laboratory techniques. The flourometric assays involve measuring the activity level of the enzymes based on their cleavage of substrates to release fluorescence products. This technique, and other methods of measuring activity level, is commonly used in the biochemistry field.

"It's important for students to learn the research process," says Addington. Student researchers are given full control of the experiment, with Addington monitoring from the sidelines. Students are encouraged to modify the process if it will result in more accurate data and an increase in efficiency. Hopefully, with enough modifications accurate data will be obtained and this research will benefit all involved.

Addington is a member of many professional societies. These include, the American Chemical Society, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Phi Kappa Phi. Addington has published research articles in such journals as Biochemical Journal and Biochemistry and presented an oral paper on "Guided Inquiry Labs: An Experiment in Progress" to several organizations and colleges around the United States.

Released: March 22, 2007