Charlène Gayrard: "A cell under strain"
During our lives, cells that make up our bodies undergo mechanical strains from our own movements or contact with our environment. These strains may result in changes in cell behaviour: their migration as well as their adhesion, proliferation and differentiation. Yet, dysfunction in the cell response to these strains make them susceptible to being involved in certain illnesses. While the science of “mechanotransduction” is an essential research area, little is yet known about it because it requires measurement techniques smaller than a cell. The CNRS Institut Jacques Monod laboratory and the Université Paris Diderot are among the pioneers, with Charlène Gayrard working on an original multi-disciplinary solution: to insert a nanoscopic spring (an elastic protein compound) into the molecules involved in mechanotransduction. She has, more specifically, worked on beta-catenin and its interaction with cadherins. These two molecules are known for being maladjusted in various cancers. An understanding of the way they function may perhaps lie at the root of new diagnostic and therapeutic methods.
Cornelia Ziegler: "Proteins laid bare"
An in-depth knowledge of the characteristics and interactions of proteins is the key to identifying action points for future medication and, in the long-term, providing innovative therapeutic solutions for patients. As a pharmacist, Cornelia Ziegler decided to follow this approach by studying every aspect of an enzyme: NADPH oxidase, which is used in the production of reactive forms of oxygen. She made this choice because a dysfunction in this protein has been linked to various illnesses, in particular inflammatory diseases. “During my PhD, I have been marking the subunits of this enzyme in order to characterise its interactions with living cells both qualitatively and quantitatively, using innovative imaging techniques”, says Cornelia Ziegler, who is doing her PhD at the Physical Chemistry Laboratory at Paris Saclay-Paris Sud. Thanks to the results she has obtained, she has been able to construct a three-dimensional model, which suggests new interactions and new functions in the subunits of this enzyme when it moves from being at rest to being active. Now, she wants to understand how to regulate the activity of this enzyme and correct any dysfunction, using multi-disciplinary research, combining imaging, pharmacology and biology.
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