Leeches provide source for cardiovascular drugs
The leech has recently confirmed its biomedical interest for scientists by showing that it contains an extensive list of new potential molecules that may become useful tools in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases. The details of this research appear in the October issue of Molecular and Cellular Proteomics, an American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology journal.
Scientists have increasingly turned to blood-feeding invertebrates as a source for drugs and lead compounds to treat cardiovascular disease because these animals have evolved highly efficient mechanisms to feed on their hosts by blocking blood coagulation.
"Most heart attacks and strokes are associated with a blocked artery," explains study author Oscar Yanes. "In some cases, blood clots may cause the blockage of arteries that lead to cardiovascular disease. People with cardiovascular disease typically have an increased tendency to form blood clots, and a decreased ability to dissolve clots before they can do any damage. Therefore, compounds interrupting the blood coagulation cascade may inhibit thrombus development."
Using a strategy dubbed "Intensity Fading MALDI MS," Yanes and his colleagues at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona analyzed peptides and small proteins in the saliva of the medical leech Hirudo medicinalis for their ability to bind to molecules called serine proteases. This is a fast and extremely sensitive mass spectrometry-based analytical approach. Most of the coagulation factors involved in blood coagulation cascade are enzymes that belong to the serine protease family. Thus molecules that can bind to and block the action of such serine proteases can prevent coagulation.
Of the nearly 2,000 molecules the researches screened, more than 75 of them interacted specifically with the serine protease used throughout the work as target molecule. Sixteen of these binding molecules were isolated and subsequently characterized as new inhibitors that had potential to be used as drugs in treating cardiovascular disease.
The researchers chose to zero in on small proteins and peptides for several reasons, including the fact that most of the important biopharmaceutical products approved for therapeutic applications are polypeptides within a low molecular mass and because leeches have developed a battery of serine protease inhibitors in the small molecule range.
Although these new serine protease inhibitors are a long way from being used to treat cardiovascular disease, they do represent several important leads in the search for more effective anticoagulant and fibrinolytic drugs.
Encouraged by their present success, Yanes and his colleagues are planning to apply their novel approach to the screening of additional types of leeches as well as different blood sucking animals. "Leeches belong to an extensive family with a large number of species and subspecies, which have evolved highly efficient mechanisms to block blood coagulation," notes Yanes. "Considering the fast adaptation to this kind of nutrition, resulting in accelerated evolutionary selection and fixation of very specific interactions between serine protease inhibitors of the leech and proteases of the host, we think that screening additional types of leeches will lead to the discovery of very specific compounds blocking specific serine proteases of the coagulation cascade."
Nicole Kresge | EurekAlert!
The most recent press releases about innovation >>>
Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:
New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...