Newswise — A leading scientist at Florida Atlantic University has received $540,250 from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to continue his groundbreaking research to develop new therapeutic agents for collagen-based diseases including multiple sclerosis, cancer and sepsis.

Collagen-based diseases also referred to as connective tissue diseases involve the protein-rich tissue that supports organs as well as other parts of the body such as fat, bone and cartilage. These connective tissues serve as the framework for the body and are composed of two major structural protein molecules, collagen and elastin. Gregg Fields, Ph.D., principal investigator, professor, chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and director of the Center for Molecular Biology and Biotechnology in FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, John D. MacArthur Campus in Jupiter, Fla., has spent more than 15 years researching the use of chemical approaches to better understand how protein three-dimensional structures influence cellular and enzymatic behaviors.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system involving the loss of the blood-brain barrier integrity and plaque development in the brain.

“MS progresses due to destruction of basement membrane collagen found at the blood-brain barrier,” said Fields. “A research focus in my laboratory has been to develop models for the study of collagen degradative processes. These models have helped to identify the mechanisms of collagen catabolism, which are involved in a number of collagen-based diseases including MS, cancer and sepsis.”

Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) have long been recognized as potential targets for a variety of pathologies, including tumor angiogenesis and metastasis, osteoarthritis (OA), inflammation, periodontitis, vascular diseases, post-myocardial infarction remodeling, neurodegenerative diseases and neuropsychiatric disorders.

“This NIH grant will allow us to continue our work to examine the role of MMPs in diseases like MS since several MMPs are known to degrade collagen,” said Fields. Fields, who is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI) and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), is a renowned researcher who holds seven U.S. patents and has authored more than 250 scientific publications. He has participated in 13 NIH R01 grants, either as principal investigator or co-principal investigator, and has presented more than 200 invited lectures.

“Dr. Fields is one of our most distinguished and accomplished scientists at Florida Atlantic University, and this grant will enable him to continue his lifesaving work to develop treatments for some of the most devastating diseases and conditions that afflict us globally,” said Janet Blanks, Ph.D., interim dean of FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science.

This research is supported by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health, grant number 5R01CA098799-15 (Mechanism and Inhibition of Collagenolytic Activity).

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About Florida Atlantic University:Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University, with an annual economic impact of $6.3 billion, serves more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students at sites throughout its six-county service region in southeast Florida. FAU’s world-class teaching and research faculty serves students through 10 colleges: the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, the College of Business, the College for Design and Social Inquiry, the College of Education, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the Graduate College, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. FAU is ranked as a High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University is placing special focus on the rapid development of critical areas that form the basis of its strategic plan: Healthy aging, biotech, coastal and marine issues, neuroscience, regenerative medicine, informatics, lifespan and the environment. These areas provide opportunities for faculty and students to build upon FAU’s existing strengths in research and scholarship. For more information, visit