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Scientists use nanoparticle to discover disease-causing proteins

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A complex molecule and snake venom may provide researchers with a more reliable method of diagnosing human diseases and developing new drugs.

Purdue University researchers bound a complex nanomolecule, called a dendrimer, with a glowing identification tag that was delivered to specific proteins in living venom cells from a rattlesnake. The scientists want to find a better way to ascertain the presence, concentration and function of proteins involved in disease processes. They also hope the new method will facilitate better, more efficient diagnosis in living cells and patients.

Andy Tao
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Most diagnostic methods must be done on minute dead blood or tissue cell samples in a laboratory dish, said Andy Tao, a Purdue biochemist and senior author of the study. Because molecular interactions and protein functions are disturbed when samples are collected, researchers can't obtain an accurate picture of biochemical mechanisms related to illnesses such as cancer and heart disease.

Tao and his research team used dendrimers because they can pass through cell walls efficiently with little disturbance to the cells and then label specific proteins with isotopic tags while cells are still alive. This allows the scientists to determine the activities of proteins that play roles in specific diseases. Proteins carry genetic messages throughout the cell causing biochemical changes that can determine whether a cell behaves normally or abnormally. Proteins also are important in directing immune responses.

The Purdue scientists report on their new strategy to discover proteins and protein levels, called soluble polymer-based isotopic labeling (SoPIL), in the current issue of the journal Chemical Communications. The study also is featured in the journal's news publication Chemical Biology.

"The problem with the current method of using proteomics - protein profiling - is that we use very s

Paul Shepson, Head
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