Researchers map crystals to advance treatments for stroke, diabetes, dementia | 8/30/2007 | Staff
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Medications attach to the proteins in our bodies the way spacecrafts dock into the International Space Station. Describing that process in detail can reveal a lot about how the medications work—and what form new medications should take.

Researchers at West Virginia University have mapped the crystal structure of a protein that resides in our cells and determined—for the first time—how a drug latches onto it. The findings appear in Communications Chemistry, a Nature research journal.

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The study—funded by the West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute—centered on a protein called "mitoNEET." MitoNEET inhabits the outer membrane of our mitochondria, which act like power plants that energize our cells.

"MitoNEET is a novel therapeutic target for metabolic-based diseases and could possibly lead to disease-modifying treatments for Alzheimer's disease and stroke," said Werner Geldenhuys, an associate professor in the School of Pharmacy and School of Medicine. He and his colleagues—including Aaron Robart, an assistant professor in the WVU School of Medicine, John Hollander, assistant dean for professional programs in the WVU School of Medicine, and Timothy Long, an associate professor in the Marshall University School of Pharmacy—carried out the project.

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"This protein has been implicated in a lot of diseases that are very tough to tackle: things like diabetes, stroke, heart disease," Robart said. "We don't actually know what the protein does yet, but it hangs out in proximity to the powerhouse of the cell, and all of these diseases have an energy-flow theme to them."

To explore the role mitoNEET plays in our energy processes, the researchers isolated mitoNEET from both...
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