University of Leeds biologists have made an important breakthrough in developing the drugs of the future. Their work on targeting individual genes for more effective and cheaper drug testing opens the way to treatments for a huge range of diseases including diabetes and atherosclerosis, which leads to strokes and heart attacks.
Making new pharmacological ‘tools’ to explore individual genes is an enormous challenge, but vital for public health. “Testing specific genes gives us fundamental knowledge on how we could predict and prevent disease,” said Professor David Beech. “It also plays the crucial role of confirming valid gene ‘targets’ before the pharmaceuticals industry carries out complex and expensive research and development. The problem is that tools which hit just one gene-product - or protein - are extremely rare.”
The University’s £5m integrative membrane biology centre, which opened in October, has become a hub for research on ion channels – ‘doors’ controlling the movement of ions including sodium and calcium into the body’s cells. Abnormalities in these channels cause many diseases, so they are often the focus of drugs.
Claire Jones | alfa
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Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.
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