Program areas at Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies
Cancer and aging:cancer is not one disease, but a group of more than 100 different diseases. Researchers and doctors are finding new ways to prevent and treat cancer, but it is still common and often deadly. The american cancer society estimates that cancer is responsible for about 10% of deaths throughout the world, and in the u.s. alone, half of all men and a third of all women will experience cancer during their lifetime. Some of the most common cancers are breast cancer, prostate cancer, and lung cancer. Torrey Pines Institute scientists are conducting intensive Research into each of these cancers.torrey Pines Institute scientists are at the forefront of the search for new ways to prevent and treat many types of cancer including breast cancer, lung cancer and prostate cancer. We have programs that are searching for new drugs that cripple essential pathways inside cancer cells. We are harnessing the power of the immune system to seek out and destroy different types of cancer. Our scientists are also leading Research to understand the basic inner workings of cancer cells, so that we may find the triggers that start uncontrolled growth. All of our researchers collaborate extensively, because a breakthrough in understanding one cancer often increases our understanding of other cancers.principal investigators are working on several challenges in the area of cancer. Scientists are discovering ways to boost our natural immunity, using vaccines that train our immune cells to kill cancer cells, or to damage the blood vessels that sustain growth of tumors, understanding how cancer cells move around the body to form metastases, and how this can be targeted with new therapies, discovering new drugs that kill cancer cells by interfering with critical pathways inside the cells and making them sensitive to therapy, understanding the relationship between obesity and cancer, and discovering how fats in the bloodstream can protect cancer cells from our immune system. Scientists are also discovering how cancer can develop from 'stem cells' that can keep dividing when most other cancer cells have been destroyed and developing strategies to deliver therapeutic genes to tumors. The Research is funded by grants received from the National institutes of health, department of defense, and alzheimer's and aging Research center, Florida department of health and generous donations from the public.alzheimer's disease is a complex and an irreversible neurodegenerative disorder of the elderly characterized by progressive cognitive decline and loss of memory. Alzheimer's disease is considered as the second most feared disease after cancer. This is because memory loss occurs to such an extent that the affected patients can't recognize their own family members and friends and they may completely depend on nursing care as the disease advances. It is estimated that nearly 5.3 million patients in the united states alone or 35.6 million patients worldwide suffer from alzheimer's disease. Because there is no effective treatment available now to at least slowdown alzheimer's disease, and also because of gradual increase in life span of human beings due to improved health care, by 2050, 115.6 million people worldwide are predicted to suffer from alzheimer's disease. The current fda approved drugs are useful only for temporary symptomatic relief, but they cannot reverse or at least slow down the disease from further deterioration since they were not designed to treat the underlying cause of the disease.alzheimer's disease is pathologically characterized by the presence of neurofibrillary tangles inside the neuron, the fundamental units of the brain. Tangles are formed as a result of alteration in a protein called tau which affects transportation of essential materials within the neuron. The disease is also characterized by the accumulation of toxic protein called amyloid beta outside the neuron. The aggregation of these toxic proteins is believed to be responsible for loss of synapses (junctions), the points where two neurons communicate with each other. There are an estimated 200 billion neurons in an adult human brain, and each neuron can make one thousand to ten thousand connections with other neurons via these synapses. Thus within human brain there are an unimaginable number of trillions of connections that far exceeds the number of stars in 1500 galaxies in the universe. With the gradual loss of these synapses, the complex network of neurons, which is indispensable for proper functioning of the brain, are lost in the alzheimer's brains leading to loss of memory, poor judgment and other debilitating conditions affecting day to day life of alzheimer's.mitochondria convert molecules derived from food to those that provide energy to the cell. In the process small amounts of free radicals are produced, however under conditions where mitochondria are excessively stressed they produce large amounts of free radicals causing severe damage and can lead to the death of the cell. As people age our cells produce more of these free radicals and recent Studies have provided evidence of induction of free radicals by amyloid beta a peptide long associated with alzheimer's disease. Nerve cells in ad patients are less efficient at generating energy and proteins involved in energy production in the mitochondria are often damaged by free radicals.the ultimate goal of tpims' alzheimer's Research is to develop cause-based therapy that will modify the disease process as a whole and not just treat symptoms. Principal investigators are focusing on several Research projects on alzheimer's disease. Scientists are conducting Research to identify and characterize those proteins which are responsible for producing amyloid beta peptide, as well as identify and characterize those molecules which mediate loss of synapses in alzheimer's disease.
Pain management:the cost of chronic pain in the u.s. Exceeds $70 billion annually, with direct costs for pain associated with diabetes alone exceeding $10 billion. Unfortunately, long term treatments with opiates for chronic pain have high dropout rates and Studies suggest that pain relief by opiates become masked by development of adverse signals between cells that are responsible for tolerance, dependence, addiction, and chronic pain.the Institute is interested in finding compounds that alleviate pain through signal prevention or by resetting the body to restore the natural capacity to alleviate pain. Pain facilitation, opiate tolerance, and addiction can be linked to inter-communication between neurons and immune cells in the brain.a compound discovered by scientists at Torrey Pines has recently completed phase ii clinical trials for the treatment of pain.principal investigators are working on several challenges in the area of pain management. Scientists are discovering compounds that alleviate pain through signal prevention or by resetting the body to restore the natural capacity to alleviate pain, refining the biological properties of synthesized cone snail venom to develop more effective pain drugs with fewer side effects than present options like opiates, and developing new therapies for mood disorders, learning and memory disorders, and drug abuse by identifying and characterizing the neurotransmitter systems that underlie the behaviors of hormones and how they are released in response to stress.
Chemistry:when Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies first opened its laboratories twenty-two years ago, the main Research focus was in the area of chemistry. The Research resulted in a new method of drug discovery called, "combinatorial chemistry", which is now being used by researchers worldwide to help find new drugs and diagnostics for diseases. This group also supports all of the other Research being conducted at the Institute by providing the "chemical libraries" needed for groups in their search for vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostic compounds. As a result of the methods invested and developed in tpims chemistry laboratories, we have been able to make significant progress in all Research groups. Tpims now partners with other Research centers to make compounds to be used by researchers all over the world in areas such as cancer Research. Research results have been presented to the public in hundreds of scientific journal articles and in scientific presentations worldwide. Tpims has trained many scientists in these methods not only in san diego and Florida, but also across the united states and around the world. This group is supported by the National institutes of health, the state of Florida, various corporate Research contracts and generous donations from the public.