Dr. O’Reilly’s background is in biochemistry and she is particularly interested in how various human diseases arise from protein misfolding events. Misfolding occurs when a genetic mutation causes in an incorrect amino acid to be placed in the polypeptide sequence. The polypeptide is then unable to fold up into the protein’s correct 3-dimensional structure. When a protein is unable to achieve the correct structure, it is unable to preform its cellular function, and this can result in disease. Misfolded protein can also aggregate, become toxic, and kill the cells where it is expressed, leading to organ damage. Dr. O’Reilly’s past research has focused on both these problems. She has investigated two misfolded protein models, medium-chain acyl CoA dehydrogenase deficiency (a defect in the ability to metabolize fats), and alpha 1 antitrypsin deficiency (a liver disease caused by toxic aggregation).