One step closer to green chemistry and improved pharmaceuticals

Jun 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: Stem cells use 'first aid kits' to repair damage

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Cells put off protein production during times of stress

8 hours ago

Living cells are like miniature factories, responsible for the production of more than 25,000 different proteins with very specific 3-D shapes. And just as an overwhelmed assembly line can begin making mistakes, ...

Researchers exploring collagen growth

Sep 09, 2014

Research by a biomedical engineer at Texas A&M University is shedding light on how collagen grows at the molecular level and helps form a diverse set of structures in the body, ranging from bone, tendon, ...

Microalgae – the factories of the future

Sep 09, 2014

Biology professor Ralf Kaldenhoff is making microalgae fit for industry. The microorganisms could produce a variety of products from carbon dioxide and light.

Seeing protein synthesis in the field

Sep 08, 2014

(Phys.org) —Caltech researchers have developed a novel way to visualize proteins generated by microorganisms in their natural environment—including the murky waters of Caltech's lily pond, as in this ...

Nano-forests to reveal secrets of cells

Sep 02, 2014

Vertical nanowires could be used for detailed studies of what happens on the surface of cells. The findings are important for pharmaceuticals research, among other applications. A group of researchers from ...

Recommended for you

Stem cells use 'first aid kits' to repair damage

1 hour ago

Stem cells hold great promise as a means of repairing cells in conditions such as multiple sclerosis, stroke or injuries of the spinal cord because they have the ability to develop into almost any cell type. ...

Tropical fish a threat to Mediterranean Sea ecosystems

3 hours ago

The tropical rabbitfish which have devastated algal forests in the eastern Mediterranean Sea pose a major threat to the entire Mediterranean basin if their distribution continues to expand as the climate ...

User comments : 0