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Weizmann Institute scientists develop a general 'control switch' for protein activity

lled a “library” in scientific language) with the amino acid segment inserted in different places. In the second stage, the engineered proteins are screened to identify the ones that respond to the drug in a desired manner. The researchers have discovered that in some of the engineered proteins the drug increased the activity level, while in others this activity was reduced. Says Prof. Liscovitch: “We were surprised by the effectiveness of the method – it turns out that a small set of engineered proteins is needed to find the ones that respond to the drug. With their greater resources, biotechnology companies will be able to create much larger sets of engineered proteins in order to find one that best meets their needs.”

The method developed by the Weizmann Institute scientists is ready for immediate use, both in basic biomedical research and in the pharmaceutical industry, in the search for proteins that can serve as targets for new drugs. Beyond offering a potent tool that can be applied to any protein, the method has an important advantage compared with other techniques: It allows the total and precise control over the activity of an engineered protein. Such activity can be brought to a desired level or returned to its natural level, at specific locations in the body and at specific times – all this by giving exact and well-timed doses of the same simple drug.

In addition, the method could be used one day in gene therapy. It may be possible to replace damaged proteins that cause severe diseases with genetically engineered proteins, and to control these proteins’ activity levels in a precise manner by giving appropriate doses of the drug. Another potential future application is in agricultural genetic engineering. The method might make it possible, for example, to create genetically engineered plants in which the precise timing of fruit ripening would be controlled using a substance that increases the activity of proteins responsible for rip
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Source:American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science


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