A 3-D cartoon model of a cystine-dense peptide produced and characterized on a new platform developed by scientists at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The molecule, elafin, is involved in the human inflammatory response. A team of researchers based at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has built a large-scale system for producing, screening and characterizing a class of tiny protein knots that are a relatively untapped source of new drugs to treat tough diseases, like brain cancer.

The small proteins, or peptides, are dubbed “cystine-dense peptides” after the type of strong chemical bond that shapes and stabilizes them.

The researchers say that these small proteins are such promising fodder for drug development because they have a combination of qualities that are possessed only in part by most of today’s drugs: The small size of cystine-dense peptides allows them to slip into hard-to-reach parts of the body (like the brain), but they’re also stable and highly specific for their targets, thanks to their tightly bound-up, precisely shaped structures.

What’s especially exciting about their technological platform, the researchers said, is that it doesn’t limit them to what nature produces. It offers the capability to tweak or even, theoretically, wholly reconfigure naturally occurring structures to come up with a cystine-dense peptide that’s optimized for a particular therapeutic purpose.

Read the full article about new technological platform by Susan Keown at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research.