A researcher at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University has used molecular biology tricks to create synthetic proteins with improved stability and functions in comparison with the ones that occurred naturally.
John Chaput, the lead researcher, claims to have evolved several new proteins in a fraction of the three billion years it took nature.
The new findings have led to some surprisingly new lessons on how to optimize proteins that have never existed in nature before, in a process they call 'synthetic evolution.'
"The goal of our research is to understand certain fundamental questions regarding the origin and evolution of proteins," said Chaput.
"Would proteins that we evolve in the lab look like proteins we see today in nature or do they look totally different from the set of proteins nature ultimately chose" By gaining a better understanding of these questions, we hope to one day create new tailor-made catalysts that can be used as therapeutics in molecular medicine or biocatalysts in biotechnology," he adds.
Chaput said that the test tube derived protein was not only stable, but could bind its target molecule ATP twice as tight as naturally evolved ones.
The researchers say that they now have a technology potential with which they can improve the stability and function of any of the nature's proteins.
"We have the distinct advantage over nature of being able to freeze the evolution of our lab-evolved proteins at different time points to begin to tease apart this random process and relate it to the final protein function," said Chaput.
The study has been published in the journal PLoS ONE.