The National Institute of General Medical Sciences has awarded FIU’s Biomolecular Sciences Institute $1.6 million to develop rapid diagnosis and improved treatment of cancer and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
College of Arts, Sciences & Education biochemist Francisco Fernandez-Lima is leading a team of researchers in the development of analytical solutions and instrumentation that could be used in liquid biopsies to detect epigenetic biomarkers for diseases including cancer. Epigenetics is a rapidly growing field of science that explores how living organisms interact and respond to their environment.
“This instrument could bring us one step closer to truly personalized medicine,” Fernandez-Lima said. “With this grant we could build the next generation of technology for the study of protein modification.”
Chromosomal proteins hold the key to DNA, which is the recipe for all living things. Each cell has a DNA molecule enclosed within its nucleus, containing the entirety of an organism’s genetic information. However, like with any recipe, not all that information is required at the same time. Most DNA remains tightly packaged in chromosomes until specific pieces of information are needed to do a job including fighting infections. As proteins are exposed to environmental factors, they can develop markers for disease or immunity.
The instrument Fernandez-Lima and his team are working on can help identify and measure specific information of every individual and disease state.
“This new instrument will help oncologists make rapid diagnosis and personalized treatment decisions for the individual cancer patient,” said Director of the Biomolecular Sciences Institute Yuk-Ching Tse-Dinh.
Fernandez-Lima’s research projects involve multiple disciplines, including medicine, chemistry and biology. His laboratory focuses on the development of new diagnostics tools, as well as the evaluation of long-term therapeutic effects.