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A hot road to new drugs
Date:2/24/2010

The search for new therapeutic agents is time-consuming and expensive. Pharmaceutical companies may have to screen thousands of compounds for the ability to bind a target molecule before they hit upon a promising drug candidate. A group of Biophysicists at LMU Munich led by Professor Dieter Braun, a member of the Cluster of Excellence "Nanosystems Initiative Munich" (NIM), and a partner in NanoTemper (an LMU spin-off), have now developed a unique technology called "microscale thermophoresis" that allows to measure intereactions under close-to-native conditions, thus improving the decision making process in drug development. The technique takes advantage of the Soret effect the tendency of molecules to drift along temperature gradients, usually from warm to cold. If a compound encounters and binds to another molecule, its thermophoretic parameters change, and its trajectory may even be reversed. This phenomenon can be exploited to determine whether a molecule that is known to play a causative role in a given disease binds to a test substance. In the test, which can be carried out directly on blood samples, the thermodiffusion of a labelled biomolecule of interest is measured in the presence and absence of a candidate binding agent. If the two bind together to form a complex, the resulting change in their thermophoretic behaviour can be detected. "Detection of binding activity is the first step on the road to a new drug", says Braun. "The new method also has potential applications in medical diagnostics, and in food and environmental monitoring."

The procedures conventionally used to identify candidate drugs are normally carried out in artificial buffer solutions, and the results often have little relationship to a compound's binding affinity for its target in the blood. The new thermophoretic technique, on the other hand, allows one to perform the binding test directly in a blood sample and therefore gives more reliable results. The substance to be tes
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Contact: Prof. Dieter Braun
49-892-180-2317
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitt Mnchen
Source:Eurekalert

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