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News

Medical use for new sugar coated proteins

Society For General Microbiology : 09 September, 2003  (New Product)
Making sugar coated proteins for use in medicines is a step closer thanks to a chance discovery by scientists from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The research is presented by Professor Brendan Wren at the Society for General Microbiology's meeting at UMIST in Manchester.
Making sugar coated proteins for use in medicines is a step closer thanks to a chance discovery by scientists from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The research is presented by Professor Brendan Wren at the Society for General Microbiology's meeting at UMIST in Manchester.

'We were trying to find out exactly how a particular bacteria, Campylobacter jejuni, causes severe diarrhoea,' says Professor Wren, 'and discovered that it can also make important sugar coated molecules called glycoproteins. Glycoproteins are vital to help us fight off many infectious diseases and some cancers. When our normal system to make these sugar proteins malfunctions it can lead to muscular dystrophy or immune system diseases.'

Until now the only way to produce glycoproteins for use in drugs has been to make them in animal cells taken from mammals and then cloned, which is expensive and technically difficult. No other known bacteria has the mechanism to make human type glycoproteins, so this chance discovery in Campylobacter by London scientists offers the first opportunity to start producing these medicines in useful quantities.

'Working with researchers from Imperial College, London and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, we were able to carry the vital piece of machinery from C. jejuni and insert it into another bacterium, E. coli, the work horse microbe used for cloning proteins in industry,' says Professor Brendan Wren, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

This research opens a path to produce tailor made sugar coated proteins which will have a broad range of applications in biological and medical research and in industry.
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