The Berkland Lab merges engineering and biological sciences to develop novel therapeutics and biomaterials. Our lab specifically designs molecules and materials matched to the particular disease. To achieve this goal, we utilize tools such as biomolecular engineering, polymer science, and small molecule modification.
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CURRENT RESEARCH AREAS
In order to treat autoimmune diseases, our lab finely tunes physiochemical properties of antigen-specific immunotherapies in order to facilitate transfer of antigens from the injection site to lymph nodes or other target sites. By controlling the features of the antigen carrier, we can affect the placement of antigen (transport) and the patterns recognized by the immune systems (valency), which are two important parameters for inhibiting or reversing autoimmune diseases.
The most effective immunotherapies work by either deleting immune cells or inhibiting their ability to migrate throughout the body. While these approaches can halt disease progression entirely for many patients, the risks of life-threatening side effects often outweigh therapeutic benefits. We have worked to develop novel biomaterials to selectively capture antigen-specific immune cells responsible for propagating autoimmunity to harness the efficacy of migration-targeted immunotherapies while minimizing risk.
Our lab employs a multitude of antigen-specific therapeutic strategies to modulate immune responses in the context of autoimmune diseases. These strategies are designed to tolerize auto-reactive B-cells and T-cells to self-antigens while maintaining global immune function. In addition, our lab has studied the mechanism of action of glatiramer acetate (Copaxone® from Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.) at the site of injection and we are exploring important structural features contributing to the drug mechanism.
Our lab specializes in delivering drugs to compartments of the body where their effect can be maximized while limiting side-effects. Several examples of our approach include pulmonary delivery of antibiotics for cystic fibrosis, anti-inflammatory drug-eluting rods for the treatment of traumatic brain injury, and long-lasting biomaterials for the management of intraocular pressure.
The largest hurdle in gene therapy development is delivery of genetic material to specific target cells. Two major limitations of gene delivery are low transfer efficacy of gene into a targeted cell and high cytotoxicity of the delivery vehicle. We aim to deliver DNA to target cells as safely as possible.