The aim of the the Protease Inhibitor Group is to elucidate how an important class of proteolytic enzymes, the cysteine proteases, are regulated in health and disease in order to understand how they can be targetted pharmacologically. Natural inhibitors of cysteine proteases are normally small proteins with structures complementary to the substrate binding clefts of their target enzymes. Such inhibitors are studied with respect to structure, function and biological activity in cell culture systems.
A specific focus is on cancer research, to address the role of cystatins as markers and tumour suppressors. Another is to study cystatin C as a marker for kidney function and a third to reveal the mechanism leading to amyloidosis and brain haemorrhage due to aggregation of the inhibitor cystatin C. The work also includes research about proteases/inhibitors of pathogenic bacteria and parasites such as S. aureus , P. gingivalis and T. cruzi, and their interplay with host defense systems.