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Faculty and Staff
Earle W. Holmes, PhD
Earle W. Holmes, PhD
  • Professor of Pathology and in Molecular Pharmacology and Therapeutics
  • Director, Special Chemistry, Immunoserology and Endocrinology Laboratories
  • Director of Laboratory Information Services
  • Co Director, Oakbrook Terrace Reproductive Endocrinology Laboratory

(708) 216-3292

For the past eight years, my research has been focused on the investigation of the biological activities of melanin. This work began when a virologist colleague and I found that phytomelanins accounted for the majority of the anti-HSV activity that was present in extracts of the medicinal plant, Echinacea purpurea. We found that phytomelanins inhibited infections by HIV, HSV-1, HSV-2, CMV, EBV, Influenza A virus, and Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis, in vitro, and that they were effective intra-vaginal microbicides that prevented HSV-2 infections in mice and Guinea pigs in vivo. We showed that a major mechanism of action of the Echinacea-derived melanin was via inhibition of the attachment and fusion of viruses to the cell membranes of a potential host.

This work led us to develop processes for the enzymatic and chemical synthesis of melanins from low molecular weight precursors. We synthesized a family of melanin polymers and showed that they had antiviral activity toward representative organisms from 10 different families of envelope viruses.

One overarching objective of this work has been to develop synthetic compounds that could be used as topical microbicides for the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases such as HSV and AIDS. This particular area of my research is described in more detail at the following website: http://www.bioactivepolymers.com

A second objective of my research has been to investigate the biological effects of exogeneous melanins in mammalian cells, in particular, on their ability to act as agonists/antagonists at cell receptors, their ability to modulate protein folding and protein-protein interactions, and their effects on fiber formation and aggregation in an in vitro model of amyloidogenesis.

As a clinical biochemist, a laboratory director, and a teacher of residents, I also have an active, ongoing involvement in collaborative research in the general areas of clinical pathology and medical informatics, as well as in the development and evaluation of analytical methods that are used for clinical laboratory testing.

View a partial list of Dr. Holmes' publications through the National Library of Medicine's PubMed online database.