Discovery of novel pharmacological compounds to modulate the apoptotic cell disassembly process

Although apoptotic body formation is a key cellular process for efficient removal of apoptotic debris and intercellular communication in certain disease settings, there is currently a lack of pharmacological compounds available to target this process. Identifying drugs that could modulate apoptotic cell disassembly is likely to provide new research directions that are clinically relevant.

Using a novel flow cytometry-based drug screen approach, we have recently identified a number of drugs that can inhibit or enhance the formation of apoptotic bodies without having an impact on the level of apoptosis. Importantly, some of these drugs are FDA approved and currently being used clinically.

In this project, we aim to characterise these novel inhibitors and enhancers of apoptotic cell disassembly in detail, in particular how these compounds could modulate the morphological steps of apoptotic body formation as well as the activities of known molecular regulators of apoptotic cell disassembly (e.g. ROCK1 kinase and pannexin 1 channel). Furthermore, whether these drugs can be used to control the apoptotic cell disassembly process in disease settings will also be examined.