Research Report: Insight into protein behind chemo resistance

A research team at the Scripps Research Institute has obtained the first glimpse of a protein that keeps certain substances, including many therapeutics, out of cells. The protein, called P-glycoprotein (P-gp for short) is one of the main reasons cancer cells are resistant to chemotherapy drugs.

P-gp, first identified in 1976, sits in the membrane that surrounds human cells, including those in the gut, intestine, kidney and brain, where it functions as a gatekeeper, transporting out potentially harmful agents.

The problem is P-gp is such an effective transporter that it also blocks beneficial compounds from entering cancer cells.

The structure of P-gp was determined using X-ray crystallography, in which a beam of X-rays strikes a crystal and scatters into many different directions. From the angles and intensities of these scattered beams, a three-dimensional picture of the density of electrons within the crystal is revealed.

Understanding the P-gp structure may help scientists design more effective drugs. The research is described in the journal Science.

Major asthma research discovery

Asthma is a chronic, complex disease that is a major public health problem. Nearly one in every 13 people in the United States has asthma - more Americans than have coronary heart disease or cancer or Parkinson’s disease.

Researchers at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology have been studying the role that certain proteins play in the ability of the immune system to guard the body against harmful microorganisms. Their work, in animal models, led to the discovery that use of an antibody to block the interaction of these proteins can substantially reduce the lung inflammation and airway blockage that are symptomatic of asthma attacks.

The discovery has now been licensed to the biotechnology firm MedImmune, a wholly owned subsidiary of AstraZeneca PLC, for development as a potential biologics drug for treating asthma.

Understanding human response to design

Architectural design can have a significant impact on how people respond to a “built environment.” In hospitals, for example, certain design features have been shown to reduce medical errors and the risk of infections.

When implemented in schools, design elements can enhance learning, as demonstrated by improved student test scores in math and English.

HMC Architects, a designer of education, healthcare, and government facilities, is contributing more than $100,000 in cash and professional services over the next two years to the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) at UC San Diego. The gift will expand the institute’s research into human responses to the built environment.

Central to this work is the StarCAVE virtual-reality (VR) environment – housed at CalIt2 – a 360-degree, 16-panel, 3-D immersive environment that enables researchers to interact with virtual architectural renderings in three dimensions, in real time, and at actual scale.