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Michael Sierks, Ph.D.

Professor, Chemical Engineering, Department of Chemical Engineering at Arizona State University


My research efforts have focused on developing better research tools to help study the complexities involved in neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. A common thread behind these diseases, along with many other diseases including cancer and diabetes, is the presence of toxic protein variants that play critical roles in disease onset and progression. As an example, the two key proteins that have been implicated in Alzheimer’s disease, amyloid-beta and tau, can exist in a wide variety of different forms including different aggregated and post-translationally modified forms. Because of the low concentration and wide diversity of the different protein variants present in human disease samples, novel tools are needed to identify the most relevant protein variant species to use as diagnostic biomarkers and as therapeutic targets. My lab has developed novel methods to that enable us to generate and characterize reagents that selectively bind individual disease specific protein variants directly from human samples including tissue, CSF and blood samples. Using these techniques, we have developed and characterized reagents that bind disease related variants of amyloid-beta, alpha-synuclein, tau and TDP-43, key proteins implicated in neurodegenerative diseases. We have refined our protocols so that we can now readily isolate reagents to protein targets directly from human samples even if the targets are present at only trace levels, are unstable, or cannot be chemically immobilized, or purified. The reagents we isolate can be genetically modified for different applications including in vivo therapeutic applications.

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