Kramer Lab Research

Synthetic polypeptides are uniquely poised to harness the structure and function of native proteins with the synthetic advantages of chemically produced polymers. We synthesize polypeptides, which are applied in the following areas:

Glycocalyx engineering and cancer:

The surface of every cell is covered with an array of glycoproteins and glycolipids that collectively form the glycocalyx. Cancer cells have a strikingly altered glycocalyx, but the causes and effects are poorly understood. Biological methods to modulate glycan patterns are currently extremely limited. Without the ability systematically alter cell-surface glycans, it has been difficult to relate structure to function. The Kramer lab is developing tools for precision glycocalyx engineering that enable systematic studies of the surface of cancer cells and pre-cancerous cells at sites of inflammation. This knowledge is being used to design diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines for epithelial cancers.

Cryopreservation of tissue and whole organs:

Cells, tissues, and whole organs are essential elements in life-saving regenerative medicine. To slow cellular degradation processes and bacterial growth, tissues must be stored at reduced or sub-zero temperatures. Many therapeutic cells have reduced viability after freeze/thaw procedures, and blood, platelets, and whole organs can't be frozen at all. Blood can only be refrigerated for up to one month, platelets can only be stored at 22°C for up to 5 days, and most organs must be relocated within a matter of days or even hours. Tragically, organs can go unused simply because they cannot be transplanted in time. Our lab researches bioinspired materials and methods that address the need for effective, low cost, biocompatible cryopreservation.

Delivery of therapeutics to the CNS:

Clinical use of therapeutic drugs and genetic materials is often challenged by selective targeting of diseased tissue while sparing healthy tissue. This is particularly difficult for central nervous system (CNS) tissues since crossing the blood brain barrier remains problematic. Debilitating and fatal neurodegenerative diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s diseases have potential cures through silencing disease causing genes with siRNA or CRISPR/Cas9 technology. Many drugs, proteins, and genetic materials are unstable circulating in blood and don't efficiently enter target cells, particularly in the CNS. The Kramer lab is researching materials and methods that safely and efficiently deliver therapeutics across the blood brain barrier, and to other tissues throughout the human body.