Professor Kallol Gupta’s research into natural peptides and receptors, specifically neurotoxins, lead him on a path towards the deep sea cone snail, which release neurotoxins particularly helpful in studying how our cellular membranes work.
Kallol Gupta is an assistant professor of Cell Biology at Yale University and runs the Gupta Lab. He started his academic studies in chemistry and developed an interest in biology after studying the venom library of cone snails of the coast of India.
Often called poisonous snails, they are actually venomous because they inject their prey with neurotoxins through a harpoon-like structure that houses a proboscis that’s able to shoot out, sting, and inject. He became interested in how these toxins had fine-tuned their actions and were able to hijack animal physiology.
He explains to listeners how mass spectrometry has opened the door to a much more thorough glimpse of this action on a cellular level. He describes how these toxins bind to membranes. Like a bomb, the toxins throw a large number of compounds at the cell and a small number hit the target. But it’s enough to effect the neurons of their prey. He adds that he wants to study what is special about the few that are able to bind with the membrane. If scientists like him want to target specific proteins, they can figure out how other organisms are already doing this in nature and learn from them.
Dr. Gupta tells listeners about the challenging environment of the lipid cell membrane and how they have figured out how to study it inside the mass spectrometer itself before it degrades and loses its nature. He adds why these studies are so important, from developing a fundamental understanding of biological functions to developing drugs that can appropriately bind to their target. Listen in for interesting details.
For more, see his lab’s web site: medicine.yale.edu/lab/gupta/
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