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Dr. Valerie Booth

Dr. Booth

Canada Research Chair Proteomics

Phone: 709-864-4523
E-mail: vbooth@mun.ca

Research Involves

Using nuclear magnetic resonance to study how the structure of proteins leads to their biological function; applying this knowledge to guide design of drugs to treat disease.

Research Relevance

This research will assist Canadians suffering from respiratory distress and immune diseases and contribute to the Canadian biotechnology/pharmaceutical industry.

Getting into a sticky situation

Dr. Valerie Booth, Canada Research Chair in Proteomics, found herself in a ‘sticky’ situation when she began studying proteins, quite literally. That’s because she is studying proteins that are not soluble in water, but the kind associated with human cell membranes. “Hydrophobic is a technical word for sticky,” said Dr. Booth. “They are proteins designed to be associated with your cell membranes, they don’t wander around lose, so that’s why they are sticky.” Hydrophobic proteins are technically much more difficult to study than soluble proteins, but they are extremely important in human health and disease. “Genetic diseasesoccur because you have a protein that’s either not there or not functioning properly.”

Dr. Booth says that proteins are the body's "molecular machines" and are central in the countless processes that maintain all living organisms. “A protein’s function comes about as a direct result of the particular features of its three-dimensional structure,” she said. “We need to know this structure in order to properly understand how a protein works, as well as to design drugs to modify the protein's function to treat a disease. The details of this structure are too small to be seen directly, even in the most highly magnified images, and so we use techniques such as nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to determine the structure.”

The proteins that Dr. Booth and her team are examining pose unique technical challenges and relatively little is currently known about their structures. However, recent technological advances have made many membrane proteins amenable to structure determination for the very first time. “Our results will underlie the design of therapeutic strategies to treat inflammatory diseases, such as psoriasis, microbial infections in immuno-compromised patients, and respiratory distress syndrome in premature babies and adults with lung surfactant deficiency.”

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