Washington, June 26 : Proteins are the building blocks of life and hold great potential for research, and to harness its varying abilities, scientists have now taken a major step in the direction of explaining the three dimensional structure of proteins, which remained a mystery till date. This breakthrough discovery bears strong implications in green chemistry and improved pharmaceuticals.
Since a long time, researchers have tried to achieve a detailed understanding of the three-dimensional shape of proteins by computer simulations.
But after 5 years of research, two researchers at the Department of Biology at the University of Copenhagen, Assoc. professor Thomas Hamelryck and PhD-student Wouter Boomsma, have now solved an important part of the problem of modelling the three dimensional shape of proteins.
They have successfully developed a mathematical model that incorporates knowledge from physics, probability theory and geometry to describe the structure of proteins. This has given protein researchers a valuable new tool for the improved understanding of the shape and function of proteins.
"Each individual protein has its own unique chemical composition, consisting of 20 different amino acids in various different combinations. There are an endless number of such combinations, each giving rise to its own shape. We have developed a simple mathematical model that captures these different shapes," said Thomas Hamelryck.
He added: "This means that it will become easier for industry and researchers to use proteins to achieve their goals. For example in the development of green chemistry, where dangerous chemicals are replaced with protein-based products, which are more environment friendly"
He also indicated that their computer model could have a great impact on the pharmaceutical industry.
"Proteins and illness are highly related, and most pharmaceuticals are targeted at proteins in our body. As we increase our knowledge of these proteins, the chance of finding more efficient pharmaceuticals for illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and AIDS are greatly enhanced", said Thomas.
Currently, both these researchers at the University of Copenhagen are collaborating closely with partners in the biotech industry to explore these possibilities.