Milestone reached in disease research

Dec. 8, 2010 at 4:41 PM

EVANSTON, Ill., Dec. 8 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say they've reached a major milestone in ongoing efforts to wipe out some of the world's most lethal diseases.

Scientists at the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute and Northwestern University have experimentally determined three-dimensional protein structures from a number of bacterial and protozoan pathogens, which could potentially lead to new drugs, vaccines and diagnostics to combat deadly infectious diseases, a Northwestern release said Tuesday.

Some of the structures solved by the researchers come from well-known organisms like the H1N1 flu virus and those that cause plague, cholera and rabies, the release said.

"By determining the three-dimensional structure of these proteins, we can identify important pockets or clefts and design small molecules which will disrupt their disease-causing function," Peter Myler of SeatleBioMed and the University of Washington said.

"Each solved structure provides an important piece of new knowledge for scientists about a wide variety of diseases."

The structures solved by the researchers are immediately made available to the international scientific community through a National Institute of Health-supported Protein Data Bank, providing a "blueprint" for development of new drugs, vaccines and diagnostics, Northwestern said.

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