Karolinska: Nanoparticle tech opens up new drug, vaccine targets

A new nanotech approach has been used to stabilize membrane proteins, an advance the investigators at the Karolinska Institute say should open up a new frontier for drug developers.

The researchers note that membrane proteins are a common target for drug and vaccine developers. But embedded in different types of membranes, which make for an unstable environment, the proteins currently often have to be extracted with detergents--which in turn can add to the instability.

Using a nanoparticle, though, the investigators say they were able to stabilize the lipid environment, opening up more shots on goal for drugs, antibodies and vaccines.

The key to a successful experiment on HIV revolved around the cellular protein saposin, which is known to bind to lipids in order to transport them to various places in the cell. They then constructed saposin-based lipid nanoparticles that would stabilize the membrane proteins, holding them in place for new research work.

"Our technology, termed Salipro, may offer a wide range of potential applications, ranging from structural biology to the discovery of new pharmacological agents, as well as the therapeutic delivery of protein-based therapeutics and vaccines", says first author Jens Frauenfeld, who was working at the Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics at the Karolinska Institute at the time the work was done.

The team also highlighted the potential of this approach for Ebola, hepatitis C and influenza.

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