Modi Wetzler, Ph.D.
Research Assistant Professor
Department of Chemistry
College of Science
Who is Professor Wetzler?
Modi Wetzler graduated with majors in Chemistry and English from the University at Buffalo in 1999. He then completed his Ph.D. with David Wemmer in the Chemistry Department at the University of California, Berkeley in 2007. After post-doctoral research in bioengineering at Stanford University with Annelise Barron, he joined the Clemson University Chemistry Department in 2011. At Clemson, Modi is working with four graduate students on research projects ranging from design of new ligands for actinide chemistry (collaboration with Drs. Brian Powell and Lindsay Shuller-Nickles in Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences) to several health-relevant research directions detailed below. In collaboration with Drs. Susan Chapman (Biological Sciences) and Luigi Bottuco (Genetics and Biochemistry), as well as formerly with Charles Schwartz (Emeritus at Greenwood Genetics Center) funded by the Self Research Foundation and the NIH, Modi is synthesizing creatine analogs for the treatment of creatine transporter deficiency, a debilitating intellectual disability affecting more than a million people worldwide. He has also developed PEGylated amino acids that can be used to synthesize long-lived analogs of important peptide hormones, including oxytocin, vasopressin, and GLP-1. A US Patent was award for this work, and Modi was also an inaugural recipient of a CURF Technology Maturation Fund grant for this research. An additional collaboration with Jeff Twiss (Biological Sciences at USC) and Jessica Larsen (Chemical Engineering) is working to develop peptides for neuronal regeneration and polymersome delivery vehicles.
How Professor Wetzler's research is transforming health care
Intellectual disability has historically been “brushed under the rug” socially and has received far less rigorous scientific attention than other disorders. Medically speaking, the treatment of intellectual disability has focused on managing symptoms instead of remediating the cause. In the case of creatine transporter deficiency, South Carolina holds a strong advantage with Dr. Charles Schwartz at the GGC having identified the responsible mutation and leading research on this disease for fifteen years. Analogs of creatine that can cross the blood-brain barrier despite a non-functional creatine transporter protein could overcome the underlying cause of this intellectual disability disorder, and potentially serve as the first-ever therapeutics to restore IQ in an intellectual disability.
Furthermore, the Twiss laboratory at USC has identified promising peptide therapeutics for promoting stress granule disassembly and nerve regeneration, but peptide therapeutic candidates suffer from rapid degradation in the body. We are working to develop longer-lasting versions of these peptides in combination with polymersome delivery vehicles. We are initially targeting peripheral nervous system injury, but with the ultimate goal of helping spinal injury victims recover functionality. This research approach can be combined with traditional research directions focusing on growth factors (e.g., Nerve Growth Factor), and may one day lead to recovery from spinal cord injuries.
Health Research Expertise Keywords
Creatine Transporter Deficiency, Rett Syndrome, Peptide Hormones, Endoscope Sterilization, MRI Contrast Agents, Radiopharmaceuticals