Medical researchers from Irvene college,California report that proteins chemically related to snake venom and frog skin secretions may lead to the development of new treatments for a range of stubborn digestive disorders.
The findings, mark the discovery of two naturally occurring human proteins, which the researchers have named prokineticins.How the proteins were discovered is a tale of biological detective work mixing traditional comparisons with other animals and the latest computerized informatics research.
Qun-Yong Zhou, assistant professor of pharmacology, and his colleagues found that the prokineticin proteins controlled movement of muscles in the intestines of guinea pigs. These muscles regulate the movement of food through the digestive system. The proteins could hold the key to understanding how digestion is regulated and eventually could result in better treatments for disorders like irritable bowel syndrome, gastric reflux disease, chronic constipation and digestive complications of diabetes.
Very small doses of the protein caused strong muscle contractions in the gut, especially in the small intestine. The proteins did not affect the same type of muscles in the heart, arteries or lungs, indicating that the prokineticins played an exclusive role in regulating intestinal muscles.
The researchers found two prokineticins that are chemically similar. In addition, the researchers found a site that may be a receptor on the surface of intestinal muscle cells. This site had a chemical structure that may be able to bind with the proteins in the laboratory, indicating that the prokineticins could control muscle cells' movement through a receptor.
The researchers now are working on further characterizing the potential receptors which could be the site at which the prokineticins control muscle movement. Understanding how these receptors and proteins work could be the key to developing new treatments for gastrointestinal disorders.
Zhou believes that the result may yeild more effective treatments for a number of digestive diseases and could even help reduce vomiting and other gastrointestinal side effects of cancer chemotherapy.