Recently, Paller has been working with Chad Mirkin, PhD, professor of Medicine and George B. Rathmann Professor of Chemistry, on nanoparticle constructs called spherical nucleic acids (SNAs). Together, the two found that SNAs can penetrate skin and knock down genes, including GM3 synthase. GM3 synthase SNAs have already reversed the diabetic wound healing problem in mice. “Now we want to leverage these discoveries to see if we can apply this SNA or a small molecule inhibitor topically to prevent or treat neuropathy in the diabetic foot,” she says.
Other leaders in the center, particularly Robert Lavker, PhD, associate director and director of bench research, and Bethany Perez White, PhD, director of the Skin Tissue Engineering Core, use their basic science expertise to help Northwestern scientists with studies involving patient skin tissue samples or 3-D skin cultures.
“Basic science is absolutely critical for any of the human disorders we are interested in understanding,” says Green, co-director of the Core and associate director for basic sciences research at the Lurie Cancer Center. Paller, Choi, Budunova, Gerami, Miller, Mirkin and Lavker are also members of the Lurie Cancer Center.
Interdisciplinary support also is essential to work like Choi’s. He explains that his patients’ care and his studies depend on a team of dermatologists, pathologists, and medical and radiation oncologists, as well as important scientific collaborators in Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics. He and others in Dermatology use what they learn from patients to inform their hypotheses and then use what they find in their labs to improve patient care.
“We pride ourselves as a department that has a robust bedside to bench to bedside pipeline,” he says.