Protein nanofibre breakthrough improve drug delivery methods

Protein nanofibre breakthrough to improve drug delivery methods

3:08 AM, 9th March 2012
Protein nanofibre breakthrough to improve drug delivery methods
Jin Montclare, Assistant Professor, Polytechnic Institute of New York University.

NEW YORK, US: Researchers at Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly) developed a new method for creating nanofibres made of proteins that improve drug delivery methods for the treatment of cancers, heart disorders and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as aid in the regeneration of human tissue, bone and cartilage. This development could point the way to even tinier and more powerful microprocessors for future generations of computers and consumer electronics devices.

Susheel K Gunasekar, Doctoral Student, Department of Chemical and Biological Sciences, NYU-Poly, was the primary researcher. “Yet all of this almost never emerged. A chance observation made by Gunasekar two years ago inspired the team’s research and led to its significant findings,” said Jin Montclare, Assistant Professor, NYU-Poly.

During an experiment that involved studying certain cylinder-shaped proteins derived from cartilage oligomeric matrix protein (COMP, found predominantly in human cartilage), Gunasekar noticed that in high concentrations, these alpha helical coiled-coil proteins spontaneously came together and self-assembled into nanofibres. It was a surprising outcome. According to Montclare, COMP was not known to form fibres at all. “We decided to do a series of experiments to see if we could control the fibre formation, and also control its binding to small molecules, which would be housed within the protein’s cylinder,” said Gunasekar.

Of special interest were molecules of curcumin, an ingredient in dietary supplements used to combat Alzheimer’s disease, cancers and heart disorders. By adding a set of metal-recognizing amino acids to the coiled-coil protein, the NYU-Poly team succeeded, finding that the nanofibres alter their shapes upon addition of metals such as zinc and nickel to the protein. Moreover, the addition of zinc fortified the nanofibres, enabling them to hold more curcumin, while the addition of nickel transformed the fibres into clumped mats, triggering the release of the drug molecule.

The researchers plan to experiment with creating scaffolds of nanofibres that can be used to induce the regeneration of bone and cartilage (via embedded vitamin D) or human stem cells (via embedded vitamin A). Later, it may even be possible to apply this organic, protein-based method for creating nanofibres to the world of computers and consumer electronics. Acccording to Montclare, producing nanoscale gold threads for use as circuits in computer chips by first creating the nanofibres and then guiding that metal to them. The researchers would like the fruits of their discovery to be adopted by pharmaceutical companies and microprocessor makers alike.

© Polytechnic Institute of New York University News

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