New Detergents for Drug Research
Researchers at TU Dortmund University and Freie Universität Berlin have developed a process for producing new detergents for drug research. The purpose of the new detergents is to separate sensitive proteins from biomembranes so that they can be studied in detail for their use in drug research. The findings were recently published in the renowned journals Chemical Science and Current Opinion in Chemical Biology.
Proteins anchored in biomembranes are important starting points for the development of new drugs. Researchers use detergents to separate the proteins from the membranes without damaging their sensitive structures. Once separated, the proteins and the way they bind to active substances can be studied in detail. So far, it is unclear why it is only possible to make intact membrane proteins available for drug research with the help of certain detergents. “For decades, scientists have optimized detergents through trial and error,” explains Dr. Leonhard H. Urner, head of a junior research group at the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology of TU Dortmund University. “We want to crack the detergent code in order to advance the development of new active ingredients.”
In a recent study published in Chemical Science, “scalable hybrid detergents” were developed and systematically examined on membrane proteins. The researchers discovered that an effective separation of proteins from biomembranes is related to the molecular shape and polarity of detergents. Both parameters can be described using mathematical models. “With the help of these models, we want to reduce the chemical complexity of detergents to simple numbers in order to enable experimental predictions for the study of membrane proteins,” explains Dr. Leonhard H. Urner.
In the second literature study, published in Current Opinion in Chemical Biology, the team additionally summarized a purification concept for proteins in order to better understand the influence of biomembranes on drug action. “With the help of scalable hybrid detergents and the purification concept, it should be easier in the future to study interactions between biomembranes, proteins and active ingredients and in this way develop new drugs,” says Urner.
Dr. Leonhard H. Urner came to TU Dortmund University at the beginning of 2022 via the Return Program of North Rhine-Westphalia’s Ministry of Culture and Science. The current work was also funded by the Ministry as well as by the Focus Area Nanoscale at FU Berlin and by the Fonds der Chemischen Industrie.
Dr. Leonhard Urner
TU Dortmund University
Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology
Tel.: (0231) 755-7090