Welcome to the Clark Lab website. We study protein evolution using caspases as a model system. Caspases are integral proteases in cell development and in programmed cell death (apoptosis). The dysregulation of apoptosis is observed in a number of human diseases, from autoimmune diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes), to neurodegenerative diseases, to cancer.
About 2.5 million deaths are registered in the US each year (www.cdc.gov). Heart disease and cancer account for about half of the deaths. The impact of chronic diseases (heart disease, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer) on healthcare costs approaches $750 billion per year. Anticancer drugs are effective at inducing apoptosis by a variety of mechanisms because cancer cells are known to evade pro-apoptotic signals when compared to normal cells. Our goal is to understand how unique characteristics of caspase enzymes evolved to provide discrete cellular functions and how the enzymes are regulated under normal versus aberrant cellular conditions. Specific projects are described on the Research page.