Illinois Institute of Technology - Dr. Orgel


Associate Professor Joseph Orgel is a British American scientist based at the Illinois Institute of Technology with appointments in Biology, Physics, and Biomedical Engineering. His research interests are concerned with fundamental structural biochemistry problems that have direct links to the understanding and treatment of disease. Using techniques normally applied to small protein crystals, the Orgel group (based at Illinois Institute of Technology) has been able to visualize the molecular organization of connective tissues to a resolution of less than one billionth of a meter. Joseph Orgel leads investigations of brain pathological diseases and connective tissue conditions, including heart disease and arthritis, at the National Institutes of Health Biotechnology Research Resource, BioCAT, as Associate Director. He is the Biochemistry Section Editor of the Public Library of Science Journal, PloS ONE, and joined the board of directors of NMHM Chicago in December of 2012.


Brain and Connective Tissue Research

Fibrillar collagen's role, located in the brain and Central Nervous System (CNS), is unclear in terms of both its normal function and function during disease. Under normal function, fibrillar collagen is a critical component of the blood brain barrier, a neurological cell growth scaffold, and are significant promoters of the growth and differentiation of stem cells. Fibrillar collagen acts differently in terms of disease where it can form fibrotic 'scars' that block neurological regrowth to heal TBIs, stimulate brain tumors, and the deposition of Alzheimer plaque and Neurofibrillary Tangles.

Learning more about fibrillar collagen's role in the brain and CNS is of clinical value. Multiple factors need to be tracked at once: X-ray diffraction, florescence, molecular markers and probes, and post data collection image analysis and integration. Software analysis tools to analyze these data are under development. 


Extracellular Matrix

This project also presents the opportunity for ECM study and the development of an ECM molecular visualization study tool. This lead to innovations such as:

1) Use of modern software development tools to build visualization applications to analyze and study under explored areas of biomedical and clinical interest.

2) Our technical approach and our structural characterization of fibrous species that are individually related to signs of disease and their possible co-localization.

3) Our vision to combine molecular visualization data of a massive molecular array in a form that may be studied on a standard laptop or tablet in a manner similar to the 'body atlas' and integrated with a database.


Interact with Collagen 

Interact with Collagen (IWC), a prototype complex biomedical visualization and data tool, was developed to view ligand interactions in the context of 3D structure of microfibrils and fibrils using HTML, Javascript, and Jmol. IWC displays vast amounts of information from three primary sources:

1) Type I collagen packing structure

2) ECM ligand binding sites

3) a microfibrillar accessibility map

 Example Page from Interact With Collagen (IWC); Bottom right insert shows mutation data.