Most hormones and cytokines have a short life, and therefore require frequent injections as therapy.
The researchers say that the new technology will enable the generation of effective, long-acting hormones that promote growth over a minimum of ten days, after just one injection.
The hormones are able to act for longer because of unique characteristics in the new molecules created in Sheffield, they say.
Normally, hormones circulate in blood attached to binding proteins that prevent their clearance from the circulation and prolong their biological action. But the new molecules created by the scientists are able to bind to each other in a head-to-tail configuration, doubling their molecular mass in the bloodstream.
This delays their absorption and elimination from the blood and therefore generates a hormone that will last for a longer period of time, say the researchers.
"We are very excited by these results and believe this technology will bring significant benefit to patients. Children and adults with growth hormone deficiency have to give themselves daily injections and it is hoped that the new technology will reduce the number of times they have to do this to once every two weeks, or even once a month," Nature magazine quoted Professor Richard Ross of the University's School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, as saying.
"Although we are only in the early stages of the drug development process, and any drugs resulting from this research are several years away from approval, it's wonderful to see the science translate from the computer screen to what we hope will be real benefits for patients," added Professor Peter Artymiuk, a structural biologist in the University's Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology.
The researchers are of the opinion the new technology may be helpful in treating several other diseases also. "We believe that the technology can also be applied to treat inflammatory diseases such as multiple-sclerosis, cancer and metabolic diseases," said Professor Jon Sayers of the University's School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
The team of academics are founder shareholders in Asterion Ltd, a Biofusion portfolio company from the University of Sheffield, set up in 2001 to commercially exploit this breakthrough.