Institute of Signal Transduction will explore cells on the molecular level to discover cures for hundreds of diseases
MAYWOOD, Ill. -- Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine has formed a new research institute dedicated to understanding the molecular causes of cancer, autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular disease and several other illnesses.
Researchers at the Institute of Signal Transduction will study the ways that cells interpret, integrate and react to hormonal signals received by receptors on their surfaces or from signals from other nearby cells in response to stress or damage, said Tarun Patel, Ph.D., director of the institute. These mechanisms, which constitute signaling pathways, tell cells how and where to move or change function, including when to divide and when to die.
"To understand disease you have to understand the fundamental mechanisms that can go awry at the molecular level. Those mechanisms are regulated by signaling molecules that activate different signaling pathways," said Patel, who is also chairman of the Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Therapeutics at Stritch. "If you find what has gone awry then that allows you to identify targets. Once you identify targets, you can try to find new drugs and therapies that modulate their activities to treat diseases."
The institute will bring together faculty and researchers from the other five research-focused institutes at Stritch: Infectious Disease & Immunology Institute, Burn and Shock Trauma Institute, Oncology Institute, Cardiovascular Institute and the Neuroscience Institute. Faculty and researchers at the schoolâs other basic science departments also will be involved in the new institute, creating a network of hundreds of scientists and physicians all focused on research and training in this area.
"Sometimes advancements and understandings in one area are applicable to another. For instance, medication developed for Alzheimerâs disease also turned out to be useful in the treatment of some cancers," Patel said. "If we can get people from different research areas to talk to each other, we can bring novel ideas from different areas to different people and synergize our progress toward understanding and treating diseases."
Membership in the institute is open to all Stritch faculty, physicians and researchers who are exploring or plan to explore signaling mechanisms related to all areas of biomedical research. The initial goals of the institute will be to help generate additional grants for research, provide additional infrastructure, establish specialized degree programs and curricula for graduate students and to foster productive collaboration with the private sector.
"Signal transduction research is a major area of focus in the academic and medical communities," said Richard L. Gamelli, MD, FACS, dean of the Stritch School of Medicine and senior vice president of Loyola University Health System. "The close collaboration within the Institute of Signal Transduction will be vital to the overall integration of Loyolaâs research and patient-care efforts."