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Grand Challenge 3: Engineer Better Medicines

Doctors will soon be able to diagnose and treat people based on their individual genetic differences; however, an effective system of "personalized medicine" will be developed collaboratively by geneticists, clinical specialists, and engineers.


Hypertension-Diabetes Link

Bioengineering research scientist Frank DeLano (left) and bioengineering professor Geert Schmid-Schönbein (right) have discovered a new mechanism for insulin resistance that is based on cleavage of cellular receptors.
Bioengineering research scientist Frank DeLano (left) and bioengineering professor Geert Schmid-Schönbein (right) have discovered a new mechanism for insulin resistance that is based on cleavage of cellular receptors.

Many of the 75 million Americans with essential hypertension also develop diabetes and other complications in addition to their high blood pressure, and researchers at the Jacobs School have discovered a common molecular mechanism that explains how the problems arise simultaneously.

In the circulation of the spontaneously hypertensive rat (SHR), a strain predisposed to develop high blood pressure, Geert Schmid-Schönbein, a professor of bioengineering, and Frank DeLano, a research scientist in the department, reported June 30 in Hypertension that they found significant levels of proteases—enzymes that degrade protein receptors—on cells’ surfaces.

When the team gave the rats a protease-blocking drug, the cells of the rats again bristled with normal levels of receptors; and the animals’ blood pressure and other metabolic conditions also improved.

“These studies indicate for the first time that hypertension and cell dysfunctions associated with the metabolic syndrome may be part of an enzymatic auto-digestion process,” Schmid-Schönbein said. “Our observations provide a conceptual framework in which we can start to understand how diverse complications in the metabolic syndrome arise.”


Drug Discovery Bottleneck Eliminated

Drug Discovery Bottleneck Eliminated

Sifting through natural compounds for promising drugs should get faster and less expensive thanks to a new combination of experimental and computational protocols developed at UC San Diego. Researchers from the Jacobs School and the UC San Diego Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences cut the time it takes to determine the structure of peptides derived from natural compounds from six months or a year to as little as one day.

“Our work removes a particularly troublesome bottleneck in the drug discovery pipeline for an important class of therapeutics called nonribosomal peptides” says Pieter Dorrestein, a professor from the Skaggs School and the Departments of Pharmacology,Chemistry and Biochemistry. He is collaborating with computer science professor Pavel Pevzner and the bioinformatics researchers in his lab.


Transportation Critical to Cells

Transportation Critical to Cells

Researchers at the Jacobs School have discovered how cells of higher organisms change the speed at which they move. It's a basic biological discovery that may help researchers devise ways to prevent cancer cells from spreading throughout the body. In mammals, cell motility is essential for embryonic development, tissue renewal, functioning of the immune system, and many other physiological processes. The new findings may suggest cancer treatments aimed at inhibiting the metastatic spreading of some tumors, says mechanical and aerospace engineering professor Juan Lasheras.