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Helping the director fund the greatest needs as MBI pursues major breakthroughs in medicine
For David Eisenberg — professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at UCLA, as well as director of the UCLA Institute for Genomics and Proteomics — it all started with his father. George Eisenberg was a beloved pediatrician in their hometown outside of Chicago. He wanted his son to become a doctor and did everything he could to nurture his son’s interest in science.
But Prof. Eisenberg’s destiny was revealed when his mentor at Harvard Medical School said, “If you’re really interested in helping human health, you should work in biochemistry and molecular biology.” Taking that advice to heart, Prof. Eisenberg obtained a D.Phil. in chemistry at Oxford and went on to study the role that aberrant proteins play in diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and Diabetes Type 2. The stakes for our society, he says, are high. In 2013 alone, health care costs for Diabetes Type 2 were $176 billion. Experts expect the United States will have anywhere from 16 to 19 million Alzheimer’s patients by 2050.
Prof. Eisenberg and his team discovered that all of these diseases involved amyloid and prion — also known as “misfolded” — proteins. Before they could develop an effective inhibitor to stop the malformation, his team had to study the protein’s atomic structure by crystallizing the peptides. They were told it was impossible, but nonetheless they managed to grow some microscopic crystals. Using a sophisticated microbeam in Grenoble, France, they discovered the crystal’s fascinating “zippered” structure. Thanks to Prof. Eisenberg’s team, inhibitors are now being created that show great promise in treating these devastating diseases.
MBI strives to continue this kind of revolutionary research, bringing together many of UCLA’s leading faculty and researchers from the College of Letters and Sciences as well as the Schools of Medicine, Dentistry and Engineering to spearhead novel approaches to biology. Your gift will enable the MBI director to allocate resources to the areas of greatest need, bolstering MBI’s role as an engine for major breakthroughs in medicine.
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