Dartmouth researchers are contributing to the rapidly emerging field of apoptosis, which describes a pathway of cell death that is essential for normal human development and that can, when aberrant, lead to many pathological disorders including cancer, neurodegeneration, and auto-immune diseases. Recent research at Dartmouth has identified a protein that is cleaved in human cells undergoing apoptosis. This information leads to a potential marker for apoptosis that might be of value in diagnostic evaluation such as in patients on cancer therapy, or in basic research into apoptosis.
The enzyme involved appears to be a deoxyribonuclease which suggests it may have a critical role in the pathway of apoptosis. Enzyme inhibitors may therefore prevent DNA digestion as occurs in apoptosis or prevent cell death. Furthermore, knowledge of the cleavage site of this protein permits development of specific substrates that can be used to investigate factors that regulate the cleavage during apoptosis.
Cloning and characterization of the gene and protein also makes possible evaluation of this deoxyribonuclease, or recombinant derivatives, as therapeutics. The ability of the isolated, purified enzyme to digest DNA renders it potentially useful in conditions such as Cystic Fibrosis wherein the accumulation of DNA in the lungs leads to extreme discomfort and even suffocation.
This technology is claimed in the issued United States Patent No. 6,184,034. We are seeking an industrial partner to further refine and market this technology. (Ref: J40)
Last Updated: 7/24/12