Our research group is interested in the design and synthesis of multifunctional molecular constructs for the treatment and diagnosis of amyloid forming diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease, in addition to the development of sensors and the in vivo and in vitro detection of DNA and mRNA. 5.2 million people suffer from Alzheimer's in the United States. By 2050, this number will increase to 14 million unless a cure is found. Finding novel treatments for Alzheimer's disease represents a challenge that will involve different scientific disciplines. Our approach involves the use of molecular scissors to degrade and solubilize amyloid deposits. These amyloid scissors consist of a recognition element capable of selectively binding to amyloid plaques, bound to an artificial protease capable of cleaving proteins, similar to those in amyloid plaques. We also aim to attach paramagnetic species such as gadolinium compounds to amyloid recognition elements for use as diagnosis tools in conjunction with MRI techniques. Other projects involve the design of probes for the detection and monitoring of DNA and mRNA in different media. This will include the use of hybridization probes with an oligonucleotide sequence complementary to the target sequence of interest, and a fluorescent reporter group capable of changing its photophysical properties upon binding to the target sequence. Our group is also interested in investigating the changes in structure that the protein alpha-synuclein undergoes when it binds to membranes and small molecules such as melanin. Alpha-synuclein has been associated with the pathology of Parkinson's disease. We will use spectroscopic methods such as FTIR and circular dichroism to determine the changes in structure of this protein when interacting with different molecular and supramolecular agents.
Angel A. Martí obtained his Ph.D degree in 2004 from the University of Puerto Rico in Río Piedras with Prof. Jorge Colón, where he held the NSF Graduate Teaching Fellowship in K-12 Education and NIH-RISE fellowship; here he studied the photophysical properties of metal complexes immobilized in layered zirconium phosphate materials. In 2004 he joined Prof. Nicholas Turro’s research group at Columbia University as a postdoctoral research scientist, where he has worked in the development of fluorescent probes for the detection of trace amounts of DNA and RNA in vivo and in vitro. In July 2008, Dr. Angel Martí joined the department of Chemistry at Rice University in Houston. Currently he is interested in developing multifunctional composite molecules with applications in oligonucleotide detection, medical treatments, proteolysis and sensors.