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研究 Profile: Kristine Griffett

Published on 22 April 2020

Kristine Griffett, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmacology at St. Louis College of Pharmacy, studies nuclear receptors to develop targeted therapeutics for cardio-metabolic diseases, including diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, atherosclerosis and fatty liver disease. By focusing on nuclear receptors, Griffett’s work looks at the underlying causes of disease and examines how many diseases can share a single underlying cause.

“The diseases I research are often treated separately, but they can all have the same underlying cause, which is inflammation,” Griffett explained. “We often see that people who suffer from one of these diseases have one or more of the others as well. This is because inflammation can affect many of the body’s systems in different ways, from joint problems to life-threatening illnesses.”

Griffett’s background is in genetics, and she earned her Doctor of Developmental Genetics from the University of South Florida, where she studied somatic mutations in zebrafish embryos to understand developmental pathways as well as cancer. As a postdoc at Scripps, she worked with Tom Burris, Ph.D., FAAAS, FAHA, 校友 Chair in Pharmaceutical Education and vice president for research at the College, who introduced her to the field of nuclear receptors in pharmacology and drug discovery.

“At Scripps, Dr. Burris and I were examining nuclear receptors and fatty liver disease,” Griffett explained. “Although we began by focusing on fatty liver disease, the receptors we study are also involved in atherosclerosis and inflammation, so the treatments we work on have the potential to treat a variety of diseases simultaneously.”

When Burris accepted a position at Saint Louis University, he recruited Griffett to work with him again. She moved with his lab to the College when he was recruited to direct research at the Center for Clinical Pharmacology. As part of Burris’ team, she also collaborates with Bahaa El-Gendy, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicinal chemistry, and members of his team, including Lamees Hegazy, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicinal chemistry.

“At the center, we each have a unique specialty and are a complete drug discovery team,” Griffett explained. “Dr. Hegazy is a computational chemist who virtually constructs a therapeutic based on the structure of the receptor, then Dr. Elgendy creates the compound, and I test it. I come back to them with results, and we keep working through the process until we get the results we’re looking for.”

The team is currently working on a compound that has potential to treat atherosclerosis and high cholesterol more effectively and with fewer side effects than statins, which are typically prescribed for these conditions. Griffett hopes that the compound will be ready for preclinical trials in the next five years. She is also continuing her work on other cardio-metabolic diseases and their related conditions.

“The best part of doing this kind of research is that we’re always learning something,” Griffett explains. “I might find a drug that works with a target in a certain disease, but then I find out that this target is involved in so many other things, and it opens the doors for other types of studies or a new drug design. Studying nuclear receptors is a gift that keeps on giving, because you're always finding something new, and then you can challenge yourself with it.”

Griffett’s research is supported by the American Heart Association.

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