Scientists Modify one Protein for Regenerating Neurons and Fighting Cancer

Proteins are those large and complex molecules that play critical roles within each one of our cells. Our entire body wouldn’t be able to function without proteins. Protein messengers known as ligands represent one way our bodies remain healthy. These structures are binding on the surfaces of cells to regulate the biological processes within the human body.

A team of researchers led by Jennifer Cochran, who is a Stanford bioengineer and department chair, has modified one ligand. The goal was to cause neuronal cells to regenerate themselves, while different tweaks for the same protein had to inhibit lung tumor growth. Although the scientists succeeded, there’s a long road ahead before they can be sure of the effectiveness of the technique at larger scales.

The neurodegenerative disease might not be a problem anymore

Jennifer Cochran, the leader of the study, declared:

These proteins can hopefully one day be used to treat neurodegenerative disease, as well as cancers and other disorders such as osteoporosis and atherosclerosis,

By using molecular engineering techniques, the scientists proved that they can change the lineup of amino acids within a ligand. They could make millions of keys that they can further screen to see which might unlock the matching receptor in some desirable way.

One official statement is conclusive enough:

I have long been fascinated with how proteins function as nature’s molecular machines, and how the tools of engineering allow us to shape protein structure and function with the creativity of an artist, in this case using amino acids as our palette.

The results reveal how scientists are becoming more used to tinkering with the body’s protein-based control mechanisms for helping organs heal themselves. Cancer doesn’t automatically represent a death sentence for a long time anymore, and any progress made in treating it is welcomed.

The experiments were described in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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