Cancer and Alzheimer’s disease are among the most dreaded diagnoses. Every breakthrough in new therapies brings hope to people with such diseases and to their families.
David Vocadlo, of Simon Fraser University, is pushing the boundaries of knowledge using innovative chemistry approaches in the field of glycobiology to generate new treatment options. He is a recipient of a 2011 E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship for his investigative research.
Carbohydrates form many complex structures, known as glycoconjugates, that are found inside and on the surface of cells. Dr. Vocadlo’s work focuses on understanding and manipulating the enzymes that assemble and break down these glycoconjugates, as well as the roles of these enzymes in biology.
Dr. Vocadlo’s research team has made groundbreaking discoveries, highlighting enzymes that process a glycoconjugate known as O-GlcNAc. Their research clarified how they work at the molecular level. By controlling these enzymes in cells, they have shed light on the involvement of O-GlcNAc in insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Taking this work further, his group provided new insights into how the same glycoconjugate could play a role in Alzheimer’s disease.
Now, Dr. Vocadlo aims to advance a deeper understanding of the basic biological roles of glycoconjugates by probing their roles in regulating the expression of genes. This leading-edge research will provide valuable knowledge that could broaden understanding in the field of glycobiology, perhaps leading to the development of new medical therapies for cancer based on carbohydrates.
Dr. Vocadlo also leads a team investigating an innovative carbohydrate-based approach to fighting antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The group is working to create compounds that block the bacteria from sensing and responding to some antibiotics. This new stealth approach to the problem might overcome the growing threat of certain types of antibiotic resistance.