Treating disease a new way
Professor K. Ravi Acharya's team from Biology & Biochemistry is trying to understand disease by designing drug molecules that improve quality of life.
A team from Biology & Biochemistry is looking at molecular structures of proteins that change shape to perform diverse functions in the human body. The team is trying to understand disease by designing drug molecules that improve quality of life. This is done by using powerful X-ray crystallography and protein engineering techniques.“The aim is to understand how some key protein molecules interact with other targets," says Professor Acharya. "We are trying to explain their role both in normal and aberrant conditions in the body." This research compliments similar work carried out by clinicians and researchers worldwide.
The team is based at the Wolfson Protein Crystallography Unit. Established in 1990, the unit has recently been refurbished with a major award from the Wellcome Trust.
Professor Acharya is currently exploring angiogenesis; the formation of blood vessels. This process is essential for wound healing, foetal development, muscular growth and a woman’s menstrual cycle. However, uncontrolled blood vessel growth can lead to cancer, poorly healing wounds, ulcers, infertility and heart disease. "Two of the molecules we are studying intensively - angiogenin and vascular endothelial growth factor - play a vital role in the nervous system and angiogenesis. This is not surprising since nerves and blood vessels follow similar pathways in the body," adds Professor Acharya. “My long term goal is to provide a structural basis for the function of these molecules in both nervous and vascular tissue. I hope my work will open new avenues in clinical research.”
Our research is aimed at explaining the structure-function relationship of molecules involved in disease processes with a more recent focus on angiogenic molecules and molecules involved in inflammatory processes and functions in the vascular system such as Angiotensin-I converting enzyme (ACE).
We have complemented our structural studies with protein-protein/carbohydrate interactions, high-throughput compound library screening, structure based design of inhibitors computational and biophysical techniques, protein engineering, enzyme kinetics, cell and developmental biology approaches. We are supported by active collaborators, including clinicians and biologists, who are international experts.
Our long-term objective is to design new pharmacological agents to treat human diseases.