Kramer Lab Research

Synthetic polypeptides are uniquely poised to harness the structure and function of native proteins with the synthetic advantages of chemically produced polymers. We synthesize polypeptides, which are applied in the following areas:

Glycocalyx engineering and cancer:

The surface of every cell is covered with an array of glycoproteins, glycolipids, and polysaccharides that collectively form the glycocalyx. Cancer cells have a strikingly altered glycocalyx, but the causes and effects are poorly understood. Biological methods to modulate glycan patterns are currently extremely limited. The inability to systematically alter cell-surface glycans has rendered structure-function studies and therapeutic development extremely challenging. The Kramer lab is developing tools and methods for precision glycocalyx engineering that enable systematic studies of the surface of cancerous and pre-cancerous cells. This knowledge will guide new diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines for diverse cancers.

Cryopreservation of tissue and whole organs:

Cells, tissues, and whole organs are essential elements in life-saving regenerative medicine. To slow cellular degradation processes and bacterial growth, tissues must be stored at reduced or sub-zero temperatures. Many therapeutic cells have reduced viability after freeze/thaw procedures or can't be frozen at all, and blood, platelets, and whole organs can't be frozen at all. Blood can only be refrigerated for up to one month, platelets can only be stored at 22°C for up to 5 days, and most organs must be relocated within a matter of days or even hours. Tragically, organs can go unused simply because they cannot be transplanted in time. Our lab researches bioinspired materials and methods that address the need for effective, low cost, biocompatible cryopreservation.

Synthetic human mucus for epithelial tissue models:

Mucosal coatings on epithelial tissues are our first point of contact with the outside world. Mucus acts as lubricating barriers that mediate absorption of gases, nutrients, drugs, and pathogens, and host the microbiome. Despite these diverse and essential roles in life, current research relies mainly on poorly-defined, unreproducible mucins extracted from farm animal tissues. The Kramer lab is developing fully synthetic human mucus to be used in defined and reproducible models of epithelial tissues.