Scientists from the University of Dundee in Scotland are calling their new discovery the “kiss of death” for those harmful proteins.
Prof. Alessio Ciulli, whose lab contributed over five years of work to this discovery, told Global News that it was a “complete game changer in drug discovery.”
Ciulli explained that previous efforts in his field have looked at blocking those “bad proteins,” but the new findings have discovered a method to completely destroy them.
The team of researchers focused on a type of small molecule called PROTAC (proteolysis-targeting chimeric molecules). For the first time, they designed a PROTAC structure that bound the bad proteins to neutralizing agents, kick-starting a process of degradation.
“Crucially what we’ve found is that it’s not enough for a neutralizing protein to sit close to the bad protein,” said Ciulli. “Instead it has to make direct contact; it has to kiss it. Not just a little peck, but really a Gone With the Wind embrace.”
What’s promising about their molecule design is that it’s similar to the design of drug compounds in shape and size, which is an encouraging development to tackle proteins which were once regarded as “undruggable.”
“We’re still far from having these kind of molecules as actual drugs, there’s still a long road ahead of us, but we’re en route. We’re on the right path,” he said.
Ciulli said the most probable application for this discovery would be for disease treatment and cures, rather than prevention.
“Many cancers just aren’t curable with current therapeutic approaches for lots of sorts of different reasons. We believe that this new approach of wiping out these bad proteins from the cell, eradicating them completely, will provide potentially new cures for these disease for which there is no cure at the moment.”
Their findings were published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology.