Associate Professor, Department of Biochemistry, School of Medicine, University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus, San Juan, PR.
Complete list of publications: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/myncbi/abel.baerga ortiz.1/bibliography/43848149/public/?sort=date&direction=ascending
Abel Baerga-Ortiz’s research team is interested in describing processes that take place at the interface between chemistry and microbiology. They use a variety of chemical methods for the characterization of natural products made by microorganisms. They also use biochemical methods (protein expression/purification and mass spectrometry) to elucidate enzyme processes in microorganisms. They focus on three main areas: (1) Bacterial production of fatty acids. Large-scale microbial cultures represent an important vehicle for the production of fatty acids and alcohols, both of which can be further processed to make biofuels. A typical strategy for enhancing the production of fatty acids consists of re-engineering the bacterial metabolic pathways by introducing or deleting specific genes. Their group has reported that introducing certain genes from deep-sea bacteria can enhance fatty acid production in E. coli. They are currently working to elucidate how this enhancement in fatty acid production is mediated and whether it can be extended to organisms that are currently used for commercial production of these valuable compounds. (2) Pro-inflammatory bacterial genes and colorectal cancer. Many research efforts are focused on elucidating the role of the gut microbiota in the promotion of intestinal diseases such as colorectal cancer. Their group has centered in developing methods for the quick and inexpensive detection of specific bacterial genes and proteins in stool samples. As part of their effort, they have found in human stool, a number of bacterial genes that have been previously associated with inflammation in other tissues such as kidney and skin. The presence of these pro-inflammatory genes in the human gut and their increased frequency in colorectal cancer patients, suggest a possible link between harboring these genes and the risk of cancer. They are currently exploring possible mechanisms by which these genes may promote inflammation in the GI tract. (3) The distribution of glycans in glycoprotein-based vaccines. The Env glycoprotein from the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the template for a number of vaccine candidates currently under development. It contains 27 glycosylation sites and more than half of its molecular weight is attributable to sugars. Dr. Baerga’s laboratory is developing MALDI-ToF/ToF methods for the measurement of the glycan composition of HIV Env and its clinically relevant versions.