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November 6th, 2007
Researchers from France, the UK and Austria have modelled the SNARE protein complex that acts as a catalyst in the fusion of two membranes, using the processing power of the Distributed European Infrastructure for Supercomputing Applications (DEISA). They hope to open up new opportunities for pharmaceutical development.
'Basic research is essential, since there are several aspects concerning the functioning of proteins and cell membranes that are not yet fully understood. A better understanding of these mechanisms will facilitate, for example, the development of new pharmaceutical agents,' explains Dr Marc Baaden, researcher at the Laboratory of Theoretical Biochemistry in Paris. 'By examining a phenomenon at the atomic level, we can gain insight into the behaviour of cell membranes and proteins in general and on a larger scale.'
Many diseases are associated with functional disorders of the cell membranes. In the case studied by Dr Baaden and his colleagues, the cell membranes either do not fuse at all or fuse too heavily. The SNARE protein complex is responsible for this fusion. Disturbed functioning of the SNARE proteins may result in adult-onset diabetes, for example. Hence, understanding the SNARE function may facilitate development of new therapeutic treatments. Apart from medical science, the cosmetics industry and nanotechnology will benefit from a better understanding of protein functioning.
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