This month, a paper reporting results from the LysoSENS project that SENS Foundation funds at Rice University will be published in the printed edition of Biotechnology and Bioengineering. (The paper is already available online.) The research that produced these results was primarily performed by Dr. Jacques Mathieu in the lab of Dr. Pedro Alvarez, in Rice University’s Department of Environmental Engineering. The project has focused on identifying enzymes that can degrade or modify 7-ketocholesterol (7KC) in the lysosomal environment. Because the cytotoxic effects of 7KC on the lysosomes of macrophages and foam cells are a root cause of atherosclerosis, such enzymes could ultimately be used in vivo as a new class of regenerative therapies to prevent and reverse heart disease.
Given that many different harmful metabolic waste products exist, the field of biomedical remediation has enormous scope for growth – and certainly for more funding, which should hopefully start to arrive in the wake of proof of concept work like this. There is no need to slow down after finding one or more enzymes that break down 7-ketocholesterol, as firstly there could still be far better enzymes out there for this job, and secondly there remain numerous other damaging waste compounds in our cells and tissues that are worthy of biomedical remediation.