ZMB Member Daniel Hoffmann, Projects
HIV co-receptor usage
Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV) infects cells via specific protein interactions, namely between the retroviral glycoprotein gp120 and one of two cellular chemokine receptors ("co-receptors"), CCR5 or CXCR4. Normally, a specific viral strain in a patient uses one specific chemokine receptor (although some strains can use both). This specificity is called co-receptor tropism and has important implications for prognosis and therapy of the infection. We are developing computational methods to support diagnosis of co-receptor tropism based on molecular properties of gp120. The project is a collaboration with colleagues from several academic institutions and industry.
Funding: German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF)
Interference with protein interactions between retrovirus and host
A key event in infection by retroviruses and in the defence by the immune system are specific protein-protein interactions. Examples are the interactions between retroviral gp120 and cellular receptor CD4 and co-receptors CCR5 and CXCR4, or between gp120 and cognate antibodies. In collaboration with experimental and virological groups we are developing methods for the design of peptides that can interfere with such protein-interactions by specific binding to one of the binding partners. These peptides could be useful study interactions, to stimulate the immune system, or to inhibit infection.
Funding: German Research Council (DFG)
Development of probe molecules for cancer diagnosis with Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) has become a central method for non-invasive diagnosis of many diseases. Images are enhanced by applying contrast agents that chelate Gadolinium-ions to the patient. Although these substances are helpful they usually are not very specific in that they in general do not increase contrast around particular pathological structures. For instance, it would be highly desirable for early diagnosis of metastases to find substances that accumulate around such structures. In collaboration with clinicians, experimentalists and specialists for MRI we try to develop such substances.