• Alexzander A. A. Asea, PhD

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  • Alexzander A. A. Asea, Ph.D.
      Professor and Chairman, Department of Microbiology, Biochemistry & Immunology (MBI)
    Professor, Department of Pathology and Anatomy

    Contact Information

    Phone: (404) 752-1705
    Fax: (404) 752-1179

    1985 - B.Sc. (Honors), Biochemistry and Chemistry from Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda
    1995 - Ph.D., Microbiology and Immunology from University of Göteborg, Göteborg, Sweden

    Research Interests
    Our long term goal is the research and development of heat shock protein-based therapies to be used alone or in combination with current therapies for the eradication of human diseases including cancer, diabetes and neurodegenerative disorders. Our translational research programs are designed to further understanding of unique mechanisms by which heat shock protein-based drugs function. This is important because it is with this knowledge that we can develop even more potent drugs. In addition, we have preclinical tumor animal models and collaborate with clinician scientists in clinical trials.

    Cancer stem cells (CSC) are cancer cells with characteristics associated with normal stem cells; more specifically they possess the ability to give rise to all cell types found in a particular cancer sample. It is thought that conventional chemotherapies kill differentiated or differentiating cells, which form the bulk of the tumor but are unable to kill new cells. However, CSC form a very small proportion of the primary tumor, which often remain unaffected by chemotherapy and cause a relapse of the disease. In collaboration with Dr. Sunil Krishnan (MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX) we are using gold nanoshell-mediated hyperthermia in combination with radiotherapy to completely eradicate CSC derived from breast, prostate and pancreatic cancers.

    Quercetin is a widely distributed bioflavonoid thought to act as a hyperthermia sensitizer in tumor cells by suppressing the expression of the seventy kilo-Dalton heat shock protein (Hsp72). However, the bioavailability of quercetin is very poor, and intravenous administration is necessary to establish efficient plasma concentrations of quercetin (PQC) in humans. In collaboration with Dr. Rűediger Wessalowski (University Children’s Hospital, Heinrich-Heine-University, Düsseldorf, Germany), successful intravenous application of quercetin in a 4-year-old girl with refractory sarcoma treated with combined thermo-chemotherapy.

    Current chemotherapeutic agents exhibit antitumor effects in a small number of cancers and adverse toxic effects in most of the patients. To overcome these problems, new antitumor agents are required. In this collaboration with Dr Susana Fiorentino (Universidad Javeriana, Bogotá, Colombia), we have identified a plant extract F4, derived from Petiveria alliacea L. (Phytolaccaceae), which has been used against leukemia and breast cancer with a lack of toxicity.

    Adaptogens were initially defined as substances that enhance the “state of non-specific resistance” in stress, a physiological condition that is linked with various disorders of the neuroendocrine-immune system. The objective of our research with Drs Alexander Panossian and Georg Wikman (Swedish Herbal Institute, Vallberga, Sweden) is to identify the mechanism by which Hsp72 is involved in an adaptogen-induced stress response.

    In the last decade alone, there has been an increase of 40% in the number of Americans diagnosed with diabetes. Over that same period, the obesity rate has also increased by nearly 20%. Therefore, efforts to identify any biomarker(s) to assist with obesity and diabetes prevention are of paramount importance. This study was designed to address the link between obesity and diabetes using proteomic analysis of drawn blood and collected urine samples. These studies are being performed in collaboration with Dr Samuel Forjuoh (Department of Family & Community Medicine, Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, Scott & White Memorial Hospital, Temple, TX).

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