Improved microscopy to help more effective drug delivery

February 9th, 2009 - 2:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Feb 9 (IANS) Improved microscopy for precisely measuring shapes and sizes of proteins could help scientists create new drugs that are a better match for the proteins they target.

The new method will permit scientists to measure proteins in solution, which is how they exist in nature, instead of using coated or crystallised proteins as other techniques do. This is particularly important for rational drug design but has broader life sciences applications.

The method, called Differential Aberration Correction (DAC) microscopy, measures distances at the molecular level in two and three dimensions using conventional fluorescence microscopy.

The leader of Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s (CSIRO) Biotech Imaging team, Pascal Vallotton, said DAC microscopy measures distances a million times smaller than a tape measure can - in nanometres rather than millimetres. One nanometre is one billionth of a metre.

“Just as a tailor measures up a person for a suit, we want to use our technique to measure accurate dimensions of proteins called membrane receptors,” Vallotton said.

“These proteins sit on cell boundaries, acting as gatekeepers, and they represent a class of biomolecules targeted by over 50 percent of pharmaceuticals, said a CSIRO release.

“Understanding the complex structures of these molecules and how new drugs affect their structure will help drug companies design more effective pharmaceuticals.”

Cells are often viewed using conventional fluorescence microscopy. However, images obtained this way are inaccurate because light is bent differently for different wavelengths through the microscope. Several universities have attempted complex and onerous hardware-based solutions to try to fix this problem.

These findings appeared recently in the Journal of Microscopy.

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