E. Thomas Pashuck, assistant professor of bioengineering at Lehigh, was awarded a National Institutes of Health grant for “Designing Technologies to Visualize Protease Activity in Cancer Models.” Findings could help improve understanding of cancer progression and develop more effective treatments.
Proteases are enzymes that act as catalysts in chemical reactions that break proteins down into peptides and amino acids. They play an important role in many physiological processes, including development and regeneration of tissue and progression of cancer, including migration and metastasis.
Quantifying the activities of proteases within tissues is challenging and current options are limited, said Pashuck, who will use novel biomolecular conjugates that are sensitive to proteases to enable visualization of proteolytic activity in tumors. “We will use confocal microscopy to visualize our model tumors and understand how cancer cells modify their local environment, and also how they modulate the proteolytic activity of other cell types within the tumor,” Pashuck said.