One step closer to green chemistry and improved pharmaceuticals

June 25, 2008

Proteins are the workhorses of our cells. They help to digest our food, are at the core of our immune system, and literally shape our body from top to toe. Proteins also play an important role in biotechnology in the form of enzymes, which are important in the creation of anything from pharmaceuticals to bread, washing powder and much more. Their possibilities are virtually without limit.

To take advantage of their great potential, a detailed understanding of the three-dimensional shape of proteins is necessary. This is normally achieved through a complicated and expensive process in the laboratory. For years, researchers have tried to replace these experiments by computer simulations.

Now, two researchers at the Department of Biology at the University of Copenhagen, Assoc. professor Thomas Hamelryck and PhD-student Wouter Boomsma, have solved an important part of the problem of modeling the three dimensional shape of proteins. After 5 years of research, they have succeeded in developing a mathematical model that incorporates knowledge from physics, probability theory and geometry to describe the structure of proteins. This has given protein researchers a valuable new tool for the improved understanding of the shape and function of proteins.

"Each individual protein has its own unique chemical composition, consisting of 20 different amino acids in various different combinations. There are an endless number of such combinations, each giving rise to its own shape. We have developed a simple mathematical model that captures these different shapes. This means that it will become easier for industry and researchers to use proteins to achieve their goals. For example in the development of green chemistry, where dangerous chemicals are replaced with protein-based products, which are more environment friendly", says Thomas Hamelryck.

Thomas also points to the fact that their computer model can have a great impact on the pharmaceutical industry.

"Proteins and illness are highly related, and most pharmaceuticals are targeted at proteins in our body. As we increase our knowledge of these proteins, the chance of finding more efficient pharmaceuticals for illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and AIDS are greatly enhanced", Thomas continues.

The two researchers at the University of Copenhagen are currently collaborating closely with partners in the biotech industry to explore these possibilities.

Source: University of Copenhagen

Explore further: Team probes physical forces involved in creating the mitotic spindle

Related Stories

How a molecular motor untangles protein

October 1, 2015

A marvelous molecular motor that untangles protein in bacteria may sound interesting, yet perhaps not so important. Until you consider the hallmarks of several neurodegenerative diseases—Huntington's disease has tangled ...

Deep-diving whales could hold answer for synthetic blood

September 25, 2015

The ultra-stable properties of the proteins that allow deep-diving whales to remain active while holding their breath for up to two hours could help Rice University biochemist John Olson and his colleagues finish a 20-year ...

Study adds to evidence that viruses are alive

September 25, 2015

A new analysis supports the hypothesis that viruses are living entities that share a long evolutionary history with cells, researchers report. The study offers the first reliable method for tracing viral evolution back to ...

Recommended for you

Team extends the lifetime of atoms using a mirror

October 13, 2015

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology have succeeded in an experiment where they get an artificial atom to survive ten times longer than normal by positioning the atom in front of a mirror. The findings were recently ...

A particle purely made of nuclear force

October 13, 2015

Scientists at TU Wien (Vienna) have calculated that the meson f0(1710) could be a very special particle – the long-sought-after glueball, a particle composed of pure force.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.