Dr. Kumar's laboratory has a highly focused program to investigate the basic and applied functions of the hormone somatostatin. Somatostatin is widely distributed in different brain regions and involved in locomotor and cognitive function. The lab's first project concerns understanding the role of somatostatin in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Huntington's disease. Somatostatin's biological effect is mediated by five different receptor subtypes, namely somatostatin receptors 1-5 (SSTR1-5). These receptors are members of G-protein-coupled receptor family (GPCR). G-protein-coupled receptors constitute the largest number of cell surface proteins in the human genome and are targets for the development of new therapeutic drugs. Homo- and hetero-oligomerization of GPCRs suggest a functional interaction with enhanced pharmacological and signalling properties.
Accordingly, the lab's second project concentrates on the molecular pharmacology and biology of somatostatin receptors and other GPCRs such as dopamine and opioid receptors, using pbFRET analysis to determine receptor dimerization and agonist-dependent desensitization and upregulation.
The lab's third project investigates the antiproliferative activity of somatostatin. Studies focus on the roles of somatostatin receptor subtypes and the signaling pathways through which somatostatin receptors are involved in breast cancer and may exert an antiproliferative effect on tumor growth.