How do the intricate pathways which cells use to communicate within the human body work? And, what changes at the molecular level cause these pathways to go askew? Answering these questions is crucial if scientists are going to design drugs to fight a multitude of diseases, including cancer.
Ranajeet Ghose is a biophysical chemist with a doctorate in chemical physics from Yale. He conducted postdoctoral work in structural biology at the Rockefeller University. The Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) techniques he is developing allow him to study the protein interactions which govern intracellular communication. By investigating the structural and motional characteristics of proteins and how they change over a wide range of timescales, he hopes to learn how these changes lead to the malfunctions in cellular communication which cause disease.
The protein interactions involving SH3 domains, which Dr. Ghose is studying under his CAREER award, could hold the key to the deregulation of signaling pathways which occurs in certain kinds of cancer. Dr. Ghose is working with genetically engineered bacteria to produce human protein that is then purified and placed in a strong magnetic field several thousand times greater than that of the earth. After an NMR machine fires radio frequency signals at the sample, Professor Ghose analyzes the frequencies emitted to obtain information on the spatial and temporal characteristics of the protein. “By understanding changes involving SH3 domains, we hope to learn what has gone wrong and how to correct it,” he says.
Dr. Ghose conducts much of his research at the New York Structural Biology Center. The Center, situated at City College, is the most advanced facility of its kind in the United States. It is run and funded by CCNY and nine other outstanding New York medical and educational institutions and houses the largest and most advanced cluster of high-field research magnets in the country, as well as cryo electron microscopes and sample preparation resources. Thanks to these state-of-the-art tools, scientists are collaborating on problems which were once considered intractable.
Dr. Ghose has recently developed a course on biomolecular NMR spectroscopy which is open to advanced undergraduate and graduate students from City College and the Center’s other institutions. “City College” he says, “has a great commitment to undergraduate education. We have a very diverse, very bright group of students. As an instructor, I have an opportunity to give them a glimpse of what big science is all about.”
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