My name is Liza (um, actually, my full Russian name is Elizaveta A. Katorcha, but people prefer not to call me like that) and I’m currently a postdoc at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. I studied biochemistry at Moscow State University in Moscow, Russia, then did my PhD in protein crystallography at the University of The Basque Country in Bilbao, Spain.
My lab investigates prion diseases – e.g. bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, aka mad cow disease) or Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease (CJD). We model the diseases in hamsters and mice. This helps me sleep peacefully at night – as rodent prions are believed not to be infectious to humans.
It is more or less agreed that prion diseases are always accompanied by our own naturally present prion protein turning into insoluble amyloid form. But how exactly it happens in the brain? Are there any factors that make one more/less susceptible? Which are possible therapy approaches? – we don't know all the answers yet. Prion diseases are quite rare, but 100% fatal.
Recently, we have observed in our lab that that a particular modification of the prion protein (presence or absence of sialic acids) can greatly influence disease pathogenesis. So now we are very focused on that - tinkering with sialic acids on prion protein and the enzymes that govern protein sialylation status in mammals.
I decided to write some posts for DIY-bio folks. In hopes that it will be entertaining for me and for you, and also enriching. Discussion-provoking. Opinion-exchange-triggering. And, of course, helpful to bring us all bio-enthusiasts together at BUGSS!
I don't know how long I'll be writing and what about (although I have themes for a few posts on my mind). So please ask – and you'll be heard. If I don't know about the thing you're asking – I'll do my best to find someone who does, and we'll torture them until they tell us everything :)
Don't hesitate to come see us here – I'm usually at BUGSS on Wednesdays, after 6PM. And there are other really interesting people here doing wetlab projects!!
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