New crystallisation approach heralds better drug specificity

By Wai Lang Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Crystal

A unique approach to drug development could be on the horizon after
researchers utilised a method to crystallise proteins that would
allow better examination of proteins, leading to the production of
targeted drugs.

The approach serves to underlie the ongoing problem of all pharmaceutical products - that of unwanted side effects. By focusing even more on intended targets, the hope is side effects can be minimised further.

The approach employs the procedure of crystallisation, a process of formation of solid crystals from a homogeneous solution such as proteins for further examination.

Proteins under investigation are mixed with various combinations of reagents in an attempt to discover a recipe that will create conditions suitable for the formation of protein crystals, which can then be examined via X-ray diffraction.

Researchers from Imperial College London and the University of Surrey used nucleant, a substance that allows protein molecules to cling onto to form a crystal lattice.

The researchers then used Bioglass, a porous material made of calcium, phosphate and silicon as a scaffold to grow stem cells on.

Bioglass is miniscule - less than the size of a grain of salt - with a series of holes, which the molecules can fit in to.

In the study, which features in the journal >Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences​, lead researcher Naomi Chayen, explained that the first step in acquire a good crystal is to get it to nucleate in an ordered way.

Chayen identified the specificity of the nucleant as a potential stumbling block adding that a substance that would induce crystallisation of any protein would need to be found."

"Although there has been considerable research in search of a universal nucleant, this is the first time we have designed one which works on a large number of materials,"​ she added.

The researchers plan to turn their discovery into a commercial product, using Imperial Innovations, Imperial College's technology transfer company.

Treatments resulting from the research are expected to be ready in approximately 10 years.

Related topics Preclinical Research

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