The research interests of Matthew T. Auton, Ph.D., center on bleeding disorders and thrombosis, with a particular interest in von Willebrand disease, a condition that can slow clotting rates, resulting in extended or excessive bleeding.
Dr. Auton investigates the von Willebrand factor, a protein that, when compromised or deficient, contributes to the development of von Willebrand disease. Specifically, he uses biospectroscopic, biothermodynamic, biophysical and kinetic metrics to assess protein folding, structure and conformational propensities, along with hemodynamic and rheological tools to better understand the interactions of proteins involved in platelet and cell adhesion in health and bleeding disorders.
Additional interests include the development of quantitatively predictive models for understanding the linkage between protein folding energetics and the conformational basis for protein function, which involves diverse techniques encompassing basic physical chemistry, biophysics, biothermodynamics and structure-based computation and prediction of protein energetics.
- Thermodynamics of von Willebrand factor. Dr. Auton conducts National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute-funded research on the thermodynamics of the conformational activation of von Willebrand factor.
- Effects of von Willebrand factor folding on von Willebrand disease. Dr. Auton is working to understand how malformed conformations of the von Willebrand factor detrimentally affect the protein's ability to sequester platelets from the bloodstream and adhere them to the vascular sites of bleeding, thereby increasing the severity of hemorrhage in patients with von Willebrand disease.
- Translation of protein structure to protein thermodynamics and energetics. An additional area of interest is how protein structure is predetermined by thermodynamic properties of the protein chain and how to decipher energetic substructures that enable the identification of subdomains and structural regions of proteins that contribute to the population of non-native intermediate states.
Significance to patient care
Patients with von Willebrand disease are often able to maintain a high quality of life through treatment with medication. Dr. Auton works to improve understanding of the causes of this bleeding disorder, contributing to an enlightened comprehension of disease mechanisms at the protein level and the development of improved diagnostics capable of enhancing patient knowledge and care.
- Best scoring abstract in von Willebrand Factor-ADAMTS13, 60th International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis Scientific and Standardization Committee, 2014
- Stig Sunner Memorial Award for thermodynamics and thermochemistry, 69th Calorimetry Conference, 2014
- Young Investigator Award, 21st Congress of the International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis, 2007
- Robert A. Welch Award for Excellence in Graduate Research in Chemistry, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, 2004