Dr Marc Kvansakul
Structural Biology of Cell Death Regulation, La Trobe University
Cell death (or apoptosis) is a fundamental process that allows organisms to eliminate damage or unwanted cells. It is a tightly controlled process, and failure to control cell death leads to a number of diseases. Viruses can hijack a host’s control over its cell death machinery to ensure virus survival.
Dr Kvansakul studies the molecular mechanism underlying viral subversion of cell death using X-Ray crystallography, a technique that reveals in atomic detail how viral proteins interfere with host cell death. He hopes to gain a better understanding of the factors controlling cell death, which could ultimately lead to new treatments for viral infections. Similarly, cancers are characterised by the ability of damaged (cancerous) cells to persist when they should normally be removed by the process of cell death. An improved understanding of cell death regulation could allow the development of new drugs to overcome the ability of cancers to persist, and cause significantly less side effects than current treatments by more specifically targeting cancerous cells.
Marc has a strong interest in contributing to the science education of young students through his involvement in PEACHES, a program for inner city middle year students. He has also joined the Outreach Program developed for Yr 9 students for secondary schools. This program involves students going to LaTrobe University for one day per week for up to five weeks to work on science projects with teachers.