Our research activities focus on:
Elucidating mechanisms of neurodegenerative diseases associated with exposure to xenobiotics, nutritional deficiencies, and genetic polymorphisms. Our “environmental model” of choice is konzo (see movie below), a distinct upper motor neuron disease associated with food cyanogens found in cassava aka tapioca, low dietary intake in sulfur amino acids cystein and/or methionine, and yet to be explored genetic polymorphisms in rhodanese (thiosulfate sulfurtransferase). Our “occupational model” explores mechanisms by which industrial solvents, e.g. n-hexane and diethylbenzene derivatives induce axonal diseases. In these models, we used active metabolites of toxicants of interest to track molecular and cellular events associated with incipient and extant neurological diseases.
We are also engaged in the development of novel tools that can be used to selectively enter motor neurons and capture the dynamic of protein posttranslational modifications (PTM) associated with neurodegenerative mechanisms. PTM are studied using state-of-the-art proteomic methodologies including MALDI-TOF/MS-MS and LC/MS-MS. In addition to the diagnostic relevance, such tools may also be used to deliver to the nervous system molecules with putative neuroprotective properties.
Konzo in Popokabaka, Congo, 1996 Konzo in Kahemba, Congo, 2009
Unexplored form of disability, Kasai, Congo, 2009 Unexplored form of disability, Kasai, Congo, 2009