An Indian-origin scientist at the University of Leicester has developed a new way to create "designer proteins" that could be used for drugs with potential applications in stroke, vascular inflammation, blood vessel formation, regenerative medicine, and tissue engineering.
Shikha Sharma, a member of Dr. Nick Brindle's group in the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences, revealed that the study was aimed at allowing scientists to rapidly make designer proteins that could bind to disease causing molecules in the body.
"There are millions of different proteins that are involved in carrying out numerous functions in the human body. Over time each protein has evolved to optimise its function. Disease could result if any of these fail to perform efficiently," she said.
"By generating designer proteins in test tubes, we can produce molecules that have specific actions to control processes in the body. These proteins can be used to make drugs as a treatment for heart disease and cancer.
"Whilst most drugs in current use are synthetic, these designer molecules are developed from natural proteins and are likely to have fewer side effects.
Proteins perform a well defined but complex set of function in the body and protein therapeutic drugs can perform better when compared to some synthetic small molecule drugs that may have unwanted interactions within the body.
"Current methods to generate protein therapeutic are cumbersome and time consuming. At the University of Leicester, we have developed a novel method to revolutionise the way in which we produce these designer protein drugs.
In principle this method mimics natural evolution to make new proteins but over a shorter timescale. Instead of taking millions of years, we can create new proteins in just a few weeks."
"The fact that this new method utilizes a similar mechanism by which antibodies are generated, suggests the output from this method will be as robust and dynamic as the wide range of antibodies produced in our bodies to fight the rapidly evolving viruses in the environment," she said.
Dr. Brindle added: "Shikha has made great progress towards this new method, which holds the promise of new better drugs for a wide range of human and animal disease."
Apart from medicine, the method holds promise for a wide range of applications in the chemical, pharmaceutical, and agricultural industries, such as generating protein molecules to prevent uptake of toxins in crops or protein molecules for detection of environmental pollutants.
The study will be presented at the Festival of Postgraduate Research at University of Leicester.