After the breakthrough discovery of the molecule that turns off the enzyme responsible for the development of some incurable diseases, such as various types of cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes, researchers hope that wonder drugs can be developed within the next decade. In a study recently published in the multidisciplinary Nature Communications Journal, researchers from the Imperial College in the UK outline the breakthrough that can contribute to the development of a wonder drug for combating a number of different diseases.
In the study, the researchers outline a method that involved the use of live cancer cells from humans to identify in excess of 100 proteins that were modified by N-myristoyltransferase, or NMT ,as the enzyme is called. The research has been in progress for several years, but the breakthrough came when a new process was applied. The human cells were programmed to die, however, in a process similar to that applied during chemotherapy, the researchers discovered that NMT actually stopped the cells from dying. The research has led to a clearer understanding of the mechanism behind NMT, which is found to be a common denominator in many debilitating diseases, and now the focus can be shifted to finding how it can be stopped. Professor Ed Tate of the Chemistry Department at Imperial College states that better appreciation may lead to combating other diseases besides cancer.
Several NMT inhibitors have already been identified, and animal-model testing is already active. With the breakthrough discovery, the researchers are hoping to begin clinical trials within the next decade, with the ultimate goal of developing a wonder drug that can be used in combating different diseases.
The progress has created some excitement, as it is the first detailed look the examiners have had at the operation of NMT at the molecular level in a living cell. The enzyme has been identified as being responsible for modifying the proteins that stop the cells from dying. Instead, cell replication is increased, leading to proliferation of cancerous cells, and in some cases to increased resistance to chemotherapy. Researchers are unclear about the involvement with Alzheimer’s, but believe that the enzyme also plays a part in the development of other auto-immune diseases, such as diabetes, and other infections.
The research, conducted with the Institute of Cancer Research, also focuses on the development of drugs to suppress NMT as a treatment for cancer and other diseases. There may be several obstacles and challenges to overcome, but eventually, it is believed that the wonder drug that may be in the form of a pill that may be available within the next decade.
The research has not been easy, and required development of new equipment in order to understand the impact of the NMT enzyme. However, it appears that the efforts may be fruitful, leading to new treatments for cancer and other diseases. The senior science officer at the Cancer Research Institute in the UK, Dr. Emma Smith, insinuates that by targeting the NMT molecule, some current treatment can be made to be more potent, and may lead to prohibiting a re-occurrence of cancer. Although there may have been previous reports of cancer fighters such as ‘Delta-inhibitors’ that targeted leukemia, researchers are becoming more convinced, after this breakthrough, that a wonder drug may be a decade away.
By Dale Davidson