Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Chemical engineers at UCSB design molecular probe to study disease

07.04.2011
Chemical engineers at UC Santa Barbara expect that their new process to create molecular probes may eventually result in the development of new drugs to treat cancer and other illnesses.

Their work, reported in the journal Chemistry & Biology, published by Cell Press, describes a new strategy to build molecular probes to visualize, measure, and learn about the activities of enzymes, called proteases, on the surface of cancer cells.

Patrick Daugherty, senior author and professor of chemical engineering at UCSB, explained that the probes are effective at understanding proteases involved in tumor metastasis.

"Tumor metastasis is widely regarded as the cause of death for cancer patients," said Daugherty. "It's not usually the primary tumor that causes death. Metastasis is mediated by proteases, like the one we are studying here. These proteases can enable tumor cells to separate and degrade surrounding tissue, and then migrate to sites distant from the primary tumor. The tumor doesn't just fall apart. There are many events that must occur for a tumor to release cancerous cells into the blood stream that can circulate and end up in other tissues such as liver or bone."

The probes allowed the researchers, for the first time, to measure directly the activity of a protease involved in metastasis. They did this by adding their probe into a dish of tumor cells. They then measured the activity of this protease that breaks down collagen –– the single most abundant protein (by mass) in the human body.

"We have immediate plans to use similar probes to effectively distinguish metastatic HER2 positive tumors, one of the most commonly used biomarkers of breast cancer," said Daugherty. "A significant fraction of patients have HER2 positive tumors but we don't know which of those tumors is going to metastasize yet. But our ability to make these probes can allow us to identify which of those HER2 positive tumors have the ability to break down that surrounding tissue, to detach from the primary tumor, and to establish a separate tumor somewhere else in the body."

The authors designed the molecular probe to be recognized by a single protease rather than by the many proteases that are present in human tissues. That is half of the probe. The other half of the probe involves an optical technique used to measure activity. This approach relies upon the use of two engineered fluorescent proteins, derived from marine organisms, that absorb and emit light in a process called FRET, or Forster resonance energy transfer.

To prepare the probes, the researchers introduced a gene that encodes the probe into the bacteria E. coli. Then they produced and purified significant quantities of the probe. All of the information needed for the probe is encoded by a DNA sequence. The probes are easy and inexpensive to produce, as well as easily shared with other researchers.

In addition to studying cancer, similarly constructed probes have ramifications for studying Alzheimer's disease, arthritis and connective tissue diseases, bacterial infections, viruses, and many other diseases.

"The fact that you can generalize the concept, and the way you make these probes, to many systems, makes it attractive," said Daugherty. "We happen to study the activity of this protease and a certain type of tumor cells that are derived from cancer patients. But you could apply this to hundreds of molecules and really develop a working understanding of how groups of proteases function together in cell biology."

In individuals with rheumatoid arthritis, for example, there is increased production of proteases, including the one studied by Daugherty's team. This protease mediates collagen breakdown and joint destruction. "If you've got an enzyme that can chew up collagen and you've got lots of collagen in your joints, then you would expect that you would see more rapid degradation of the joint by those proteases," said Daugherty.

Daugherty's research group has created approximately 25 probes analogous to the one presented in the paper. They are building a panel of about 100 probes and will use this panel to characterize how different proteases function. This investigation could lead to new drug therapies for a variety of diseases.

The first author on the paper is Daugherty's former graduate student, Abeer Jabaiah, who is applying a similar process to another protease involved in tumor metastasis as a postdoctoral fellow in Daugherty's lab. Funding for this work was provided by the National Institutes of Health through the National Cancer Institute's Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's Program of Excellence in Nanotechnology.

Gail Gallessich | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ucsb.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Closing in on advanced prostate cancer
13.12.2017 | Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona)

nachricht Visualizing single molecules in whole cells with a new spin
13.12.2017 | Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A whole-body approach to understanding chemosensory cells

13.12.2017 | Health and Medicine

Water without windows: Capturing water vapor inside an electron microscope

13.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Cellular Self-Digestion Process Triggers Autoimmune Disease

13.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>