Bradford W. Gibson, Professor, Director of the Buck Institute Chemistry and Mass Spectrometry Core
Understanding the biological and chemical processes that are common to both age-related diseases and aging
Dr. Gibson’s work is focused on understanding the biological and chemical processes that are common to both age-related diseases and aging. The Gibson laboratory employs mass spectrometry, chemistry, and structural biology techniques to define the molecular details of processes that are important to aging and age-related diseases. In the fall of 2000, Dr. Gibson established the Chemistry and Mass Spectrometry Core at the Buck Institute to support research in his laboratory as well as those of his colleagues. He deploys a wide array of specialized chemistry and structural techniques to delve into the functions of mitochondria, subcellular organelles which provide the major energy needs of cells as well as critical metabolic and regulatory roles. He tracks the changing structures of mitochondrial proteins and lipids in aging cells, and in age-related conditions, such as diabetes, cancer and Parkinson’s disease. The Gibson lab developed methods that are now being used to examine the role of mitochondrial dysfunction in a broader range of illnesses with the ultimate goals of finding opportunities for novel drug intervention strategies. He was interviewed for the January 2013 issue of Nature Methods for an article focusing on "Method of the Year -- Targeted Proteomics."
Dr. Gibson supports the work of other Buck faculty through his expertise in chemistry and mass spectrometry, which can be used together to identify structure and functional changes of biological molecules such as proteins, glycoconjugates and lipids. Proteins and other biomolecules have complex chemical structures that determine their overall function, shape, location, and interacting partners. Dr. Gibson developed chemical and mass spectrometry-based methods to capture these events with precise and quantitative measurements.
The Gibson lab is also part of a national consortium that is identifying early protein biomarkers of cancer in human plasma using mass spectrometry and other technologies. These “cancer biomarkers’’ may yield early diagnostic tests for specific cancers. Ultimately, it is Dr. Gibson’s goal to leverage these studies to develop the tools needed to identify biomarkers of aging that could be used to assess drugs and other therapies designed to influence the aging process itself.
Dr. Gibson received his PhD in Analytical Chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1983, and then took a postdoctoral fellowship in Chemistry at Cambridge University in England. He was a professor at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) before joining the Buck Institute in 2000, and currently holds a joint appointment as an Adjunct Professor of Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Chemistry at UCSF.
“What are the underlying chemical and biological environments that allow diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and cancer to strike more often as we age? It is as if these late onset diseases were like opportunistic pathogens, sensing new vulnerabilities to exploit. As a chemist who is studying aging, my goal is to identify the critical biomolecules and the structural changes they undergo during normal aging that allow these pathological processes to establish themselves. This knowledge will in turn provide important clues that would enable new therapies to be developed.”
- Bradford W. Gibson, PhD