The research group ProTarg studies enzymes that cleave proteins. This cleavage is irreversible and these enzymes are potential target molecules for drugs. Therefore, the name "PROTeases as pharmacological TARGets"!
The research group
Our main focus is proteolytic enzymes and especially the class of cysteine proteases, which include legumain, cathepsins and caspases. When these enzymes cleave protein substrates, both activation and inactivation of the substrates can occur. Proteolytic enzymes are involved in inflammatory processes (inflammation) and diseases such as cancer and atherosclerosis. Inhibiting proteases with drugs is therefore an interesting strategy for therapeutic treatment. If we better understand which roles the proteases play in such diseases, treatment can become more rational.
ProTarg has a special focus on the protease legumain, which is involved in diseases such as osteoporosis, atherosclerosis and cancer, as well as in neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease.
In bone remodeling, legumain is shown to inhibit the differentiation of stem cells into osteoblasts (bone-building cells), thus inhibiting the formation of new bone substance in the skeleton. Low concentration of legumain is therefore a prerequisite for repair of damage to the skeleton. If a high concentration of legumain is present, the stem cells will instead develop into fat cells.
At atherosclerosis, increased levels of legumain are found in blood (plasma/serum) and deposits in the arterial wall (atherosclerotic plaques) in patients with cardiovascular disease.
In cancer, legumain is shown to be highly expressed in malignant (malignant) cancers that spread in the body (metastasize).