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Michael Weilert NMT

A sketch of NMT

It looks like researchers from Imperial College London could be a little bit closer to discovering a drug that blocks the activity of an enzyme known to play a role in various diseases, including Alzheimer’s, epilepsy and cancer.  This enzyme, known as NMT, is known to modify various proteins in the body that encourage the development of these diseases.  In their study, researchers identified more than 100 proteins modified by NMT, many of which had never been discovered before, through analyzing living human cancer cells.  They mapped these proteins before finding a molecule that stops NMT from modifying them, in the process paving the way for a new potential drug to treat cancer.

For their study, the researchers conducted a large-scale study to identify the proteins that are affected by NMT.  After they discovered more than 100 of such proteins, they discovered a molecule that blocks NMT’s activity.  To assess the effects of the NMT-inhibiting molecule, the researchers triggered apoptosis, the process through which a cell is programmed to die after its DNA has suffered damage.  Then, the team explains that for chemotherapy to work in cancer patients, apoptosis needs to happen, although this process is frequently disbanded in those whose cancer becomes resistant to drugs.  According to researchers, only a few of the proteins that NMT controls had previously been identified.  However, this study has discovered numerous others, in the process shedding light on new strategies that stop cancer cells from becoming resistant to drugs.

The research team claims to now have a much fuller picture of how this enzyme operates, and how it can be inhibited.  This is the first time that scientists have been able to look in molecular detail at how this potential drug target works within an entire living cancer cell, making this a major step forward.  This allows researchers to understand the effects of inhibiting NMT, and that they can determine which diseases could be combated by targeting NMT, which could enable researchers to reach the next step to explore how effective these treatments could be.  Of course, these researchers are still in an early stage of the research, although they have already identified several very potent drug-like NMT inhibitors that are active in animal disease models.

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