It is common knowledge that the venom from a snake or scorpion can be dangerous. Less known is the fact that several drugs are derived from the toxins of venomous animals. Throughout history, humans have used toxins for medical purposes. Today, modern medicine uses the vast amount of toxins as inspiration for developing novel drugs. Despite the potential of venom-derived drugs, only seven have been approved so far.
Scientists managed to add X and Y nucleotide bases to Escherichia coli bacteria’s natural genetic alphabet and create entirely new, synthetic proteins. This is a major step toward creating artificial life but the goal of their study was actually to develop a novel protein-based drug treatments.
A research group from Singapore has developed a bacterial protein nanoparticle shell which folds and protects recombinant proteins within it. A fundamental breakthrough in the rapidly expanding field of synthetic biology, this technology can improve yields of proteins with biological activity by 100-fold and shield recombinant proteins from heat, harsh chemicals and proteolysis.
Researchers from Japan have bred genetically engineered chickens that lay eggs carrying interferon beta, a protein known to fight diseases like cancer and hepatitis. The method could eventually cut the cost of producing this important cancer-fighting agent by 90 percent.
One more piece of the protein puzzle was solved when researchers discovered molecular “add-ons” that can customize protein interfaces. They represent a previously unknown fundamental driving principle which ensures that proteins interact in their own specific ways.
Snakebite at first glance does not seem to be a problem, which should concern a modern human. Despite numerous achievements in the field of pharmacology, it is however among the most neglected diseases of our era.
Grim statistics provided by the WHO (World Health Organisation) show that, each year, 5 million bites occur, leading to 150,000 deaths and a striking 400,000 amputations. The lucky ones who manage to avoid a deadly outcome of snakebite envenoming are often mentally and physically scarred for life.
A group of US and Canadian researchers conducted the largest-scale testing of folding stability for computationally designed proteins. More than 15,000 newly designed small proteins were tested for correlation between folding and function which resulted in significant protein modeling improvements.
A growing global epidemic of obesity and its related health complications such as type 2 diabetes is the reason why scientists are focusing on finding genes that increase the risk of developing obesity in the last decade. A breakthrough was finally made with discovery of the gene for ‘leanness’.
There are approximately 140 000 species of higher fungi. Only 10% of mushroom-forming species are known, making them an enormous untapped pool of potentially useful substances.