Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Press release] Chemists find a way to unboil egg whites: Ability to quickly restore molecular proteins could slash biotechnology costs

From the 23 January 2015 University of California- Irvine press release

UC Irvine and Australian chemists have figured out how to unboil egg whites – an innovation that could dramatically reduce costs for cancer treatments, food production and other segments of the $160 billion global biotechnology industry, according to findings published today in the journal ChemBioChem.

uci_news_image_download

Chemistry major Stephan Kudlacek and professor Greg Weiss have developed a way of unboiling a hen egg.
Credit: Steve Zylius / UC Irvine

“Yes, we have invented a way to unboil a hen egg,” said Gregory Weiss, UCI professor of chemistry and molecular biology & biochemistry. “In our paper, we describe a device for pulling apart tangled proteins and allowing them to refold. We start with egg whites boiled for 20 minutes at 90 degrees Celsius and return a key protein in the egg to working order.”

Like many researchers, he has struggled to efficiently produce or recycle valuable molecular proteins that have a wide range of applications but which frequently “misfold” into structurally incorrect shapes when they are formed, rendering them useless.

“It’s not so much that we’re interested in processing the eggs; that’s just demonstrating how powerful this process is,” Weiss said. “The real problem is there are lots of cases of gummy proteins that you spend way too much time scraping off your test tubes, and you want some means of recovering that material.”

But older methods are expensive and time-consuming: The equivalent of dialysis at the molecular level must be done for about four days. “The new process takes minutes,” Weiss noted. “It speeds things up by a factor of thousands.”

To re-create a clear protein known as lysozyme once an egg has been boiled, he and his colleagues add a urea substance that chews away at the whites, liquefying the solid material. That’s half the process; at the molecular level, protein bits are still balled up into unusable masses. The scientists then employ a vortex fluid device, a high-powered machine designed by Professor Colin Raston’s laboratory at South Australia’s Flinders University. Shear stress within thin, microfluidic films is applied to those tiny pieces, forcing them back into untangled, proper form.

“This method … could transform industrial and research production of proteins,” the researchers write in ChemBioChem.

For example, pharmaceutical companies currently create cancer antibodies in expensive hamster ovary cells that do not often misfold proteins. The ability to quickly and cheaply re-form common proteins from yeast or E. coli bacteria could potentially streamline protein manufacturing and make cancer treatments more affordable. Industrial cheese makers, farmers and others who use recombinant proteins could also achieve more bang for their buck.

UCI has filed for a patent on the work, and its Office of Technology Alliances is working with interested commercial partners.

January 28, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Cause of the Productivity Crisis in Pharmaceutical R&D; the CBCD Draws Conclusions from a Recent Example

Excerpt from the 15 October 2013 report

The Cause of the Productivity Crisis in Pharmaceutical R&D; the CBCD Draws Conclusions from a Recent Example (PRWeb)

“The pharmaceutical industry is experiencing a productivity crisis in R&D. What is this crisis? First, every year, the pharmaceutical industry is introducing fewer new drugs. Second, a portion of the FDA approved drugs are withdrawn from the market. Third, an analysis of Drugs.com shows that all other FDA approved drugs have many side effects.

What is the source of the productivity crisis?

A compelling explanation is offered in a paper published on March, 2012 in the medical journal Nature Reviews. The paper said that “Much of the pharmaceutical industry’s R&D is now based on the idea that high-affinity binding to a single biological target linked to a disease will lead to medical benefit in humans. Indeed, drug-like small molecules tend to bind promiscuously, and this sometimes turns out to have an important role in their efficacy as well as their so-called off-target effects. Targets are parts of complex networks leading to unpredictable effects, and biological systems show a high degree of redundancy, which could blunt the effects of highly targeted drugs (2).”

In simple terms, the idea that a drug binds with only one target is wishful thinking. As it turns out, every drug binds with many targets in the body, the desired one, and many others. Binding to the ‘other’ targets usually causes all the unwanted, surprising, side effects. [my emphasis]

“The CBCD believes that the current understanding of biology is limited and therefore, the Single Target paradigm is bound to fail.” – Greg Bennett, CBCD” “

 

November 5, 2013 Posted by | health care | , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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