Lab Members Web

Research

The method of sol-gel encapsulation: The sol-gel is a synthetic method that generates a solid matrix having extremely high surface area, which is transparent, chemically inert and mechanically stable. Proteins encapsulated within sol-gel matrices not only remain functional but show enhanced stability under harsh conditions, thereby representing a unique platform for the study of proteins as well as utilizing them in a variety of applications.

Structure-Function studies of proteins: We employ sol-gel encapsulation of proteins as a unique platform for the study of protein conformational dynamics and the characterization of non-equilibrium conformations as they relate to protein function. As such the sol-gel encapsulation allows the isolation and characterization of short lived protein intermediates that are inherently difficult to study in solution due to the diffusional barrier.

Hybrid nanogels: We extended the method of sol-gel based matrices to the generation of sol-gel based nanoparticles with encapsulated proteins and/or other functionally important reagents i.e. hybrid nanogels. We develop improved protocols for nanogels fabrication and encapsulation within of proteins and other functionally important species. We characterize and optimize the hybrid nanogels size and stability (utilizing methods such as dynamic light scattering, zeta potential, transmission electron microscopy) as well as optimization of the stability and functionality of the encapsulated proteins/functional species of interest.

Oxidative/nitrosative damage: We are interested the mechanism underlying oxidative and nitrosative reactions of free radicals that induce biological damage and play critical roles in disease and aging. We apply our expertise in the study of heme proteins to investigation of their catalysis of redox reactions and the progressive inactivation of their catalytic activity. We study redox reaction systems that involve nitric oxide, an important physiological regulator, and hydroxamate-based metal-chelators used in clinical practice. We study the application of cyclic nitroxides, a class of highly effective antioxidants, to prevent oxidative/nitrosative induced damage. Cyclic nitroxides are unique in that they are stable radicals and the mechanism underlying their protective activity is catalytic. We also employed nitroxides as an experimental tool for elucidation of reactions mechanism.

Recent research projects in the lab include: :

Green catalysis through enzyme encapsulation in sol-gel matrices: Here we aim to harness the catalytic activity of heme proteins (e.g. chloroperoxidase) towards the desulfurization reaction, an important process in the petroleum industry. Where, the stabilizing environment of the hybrid nanogels will protect and enhance the heme protein catalytic activity, ultimately resulting in a cheaper and environmentally friendly catalyst.(This project is supported by a grant from the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund) This project could result in a broader positive impact on the environment by enabling green catalysis of a wide range of reactions.

Hybrid nanogels as nontoxic MRI contrast agents: This research project represents the coming together of the two distinct research directions in my lab, sol-gel encapsulation and . The key idea is to fabricate and optimize hybrid nanogels containing cyclic nitroxide stable radicals to serve as a nontoxic and safe alternative to Gadolinium based MRI contrast agents that have been implicated in metal induced nephrotoxicity in patients. This project, supported by an NIH grant, will benefit public health by preventing toxicity effects in patients undergoing MRI and through applications to other biomedical conditions.


Webpage by Jorge Ramos, Ph.D.