Center for Protein Conformational Diseases

The goal of the Center for Protein Conformational Diseases at the University of Pittsburgh is to use model systems and cutting-edge techniques in molecular biology, chemistry, and biophysics to understand why aberrant protein conformations arise, and how we might fix defects in protein architecture to cure disease.

The function of each protein is dictated by its shape, or “conformation”. Indeed, the many shapes proteins exhibit are imperative for their myriad functions, and are necessary for life. Unfortunately, due to ageing, genetic mutations, or metabolic stress, protein conformations can become distorted, which leads to disease. Diseases arising from defects in protein conformation include Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s Disease, as well as Cystic Fibrosis and some forms of cancer, liver, heart and kidney disease.

We seek to understand and treat diseases that are associated with proteins whose shapes are distorted. Sadly, there is a growing list of diseases that arise when proteins are misshapen, but through our multi-disciplinary and trans-departmental collaborations we hope to learn how to “fix” defective proteins. Members of the Center reside throughout the Pittsburgh academic community and members of our Center work closely with faculty at the Pittsburgh Center for Kidney Research, the University of Pittsburgh Center for Chemical Methodologies, the Center for Biologic Imaging, the Drug Discovery Institute, the Brain Institute, the Pittsburgh Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases, the Cystic Fibrosis Research Center, the Center for Neuroscience, and the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute