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'Lego' Approach Thwarts Anthrax Toxin 78

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the really-did-learn-everything-you-need-to-know-in-kindergarten dept.
NewScientist is reporting that scientists have discovered complex nanoscale structures that have successfully protected rats from anthrax. From the article: "The technique relies on using tiny 'peptide' molecules, stuck onto one large molecule, which bind to toxins and prevent them from causing damage. They do this in much the same way that two Lego bricks might fit together - with several studs from the binding molecule slotting into, and so blocking, the sites on a toxin molecule which are needed to cause damage."
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'Lego' Approach Thwarts Anthrax Toxin

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  • Ho Hum... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ancient_Hacker (751168) on Monday April 24, 2006 @03:05PM (#15191856)
    Sheesh... whover wrote this hasnt a clue...

    That's the way EVERYTHING in biochemistry works!

    • by kfg (145172) on Monday April 24, 2006 @03:10PM (#15191903)
      Just wait until they patent it and come after your hemoglobin.

      KFG
      • Just wait until they patent it and come after your hemoglobin.

        Oh boy, here goes the movie.

        First were the websites. Then the crops. Now, they come for your BLOOD.

        ATTACK OF THE KILLER PATENT VAMPIRES.
        "This time there's no escape"
      • I can't imagine what a LEGO world with no hemoglobin...everyone would be yellow, I imagine.
    • Re:Ho Hum... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by SatanicPuppy (611928)
      I was thinking the exact same thing. Most of the more promising AIDs drugs work like this, so the challenge is to find a drug (or whatever) that will prevent infected cells from reacting with healthy cells.

      It is interesting that they're doing it with nano-tech though. What are the odds on becoming Grey Goo [wikipedia.org]? (Well, okay, none because it's not assemblers/disassemblers, but I haven't read anything that makes me real eager to snort a bunch of nano-tube structures either)
    • Re:Ho Hum... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by posterlogo (943853)
      I agree. That was a really dumb way to post this. Makes it sound like Lego invented biochemistry, when it's more like nature had the concept of building blocks down way before we even appeared on the planet. Not sure why this particular bit of research made it to the headlines when there are countless others that are also just as interesting and technically innovative. Oh wait, I know, it was the use of the "Lego" simile that catches the attention of those gullibles.

      The basic premise of the research is

    • TFA is light on detail, what a surprise, but I am guessing the novelty here is that you can in some cases get the advantage of multiple-binding cooperativity without having to custom-design the molecular backbone "scaffold" that holds the binding sites in the correct relationship. By just changing the density of peptides on the surface of the liposome, they can more or less continuously "tune" the distance between the binding sites. So, in principle, the advantage to this kind of approach would be that yo
      • Yeah I think they are pushing a new general synthesis of an entire class of compounds, as opposed to fermentation tech where you only can solve one.
      • An effective binding affinity is determined by several different pharmacological variables. Depending on the type of poison, the bioavailability could actually be pretty low. Meaning that just because you ingest a whole bunch of it doesn't mean that amount is what actually reaches your blood stream in an effective form. So, even though you eat a bunch, only a little of it ever actually goes to work on your body.

        Also, as I recall, carbonmonoxide only has about 200 times greater affinity for hemoglobin tha
      • Also...a biochemist may want to correct me, but TFA says that these buggers bind toxins "thousands" of time better than free peptides. But to be seriously effective, wouldn't you need hundreds of thousands or even millions of times better binding?

        Generally, the affinity (strength) of a binding interaction (e.g. a drug interacting with its molecular target) is measured by the equilibrium dissociation constant, Kd. Kd is derived from the law of mass action [graphpad.com]. The Kd is reported in concentration units such a

    • "slotting into, and so blocking, the sites" Slashdotting taken at a whole new level
    • I like how they put the word peptide in quotes...as if it's some sort of mythical creature.
      • by iamlucky13 (795185)
        Just wait until they introduce "polypeptides."

        Better yet, wait until the next Atkins-like fad hits after some clever nutritionist "discovers" that foods which are high in protein are also high in "peptides"... miraculous molecules that can help protect against anthrax, provide increased energy, and help the body heal.
  • by MLopat (848735) on Monday April 24, 2006 @03:06PM (#15191859) Homepage
    Doesn't Lego have a patent on the whole block stacking concept? Looks like they're in for a legal battle on this one. :)
    • The author of the Slashdot post can thank his lucky stars that he didn't say "legos". They REALLY hate that!
    • So what if rats will win this legal battle, will they accept damages payment in lego shaped cheese blocks?
    • I realize this comment was a joke, but just in case you didn't know, Lego's patent ran out a little while ago (at least in America), which is why companies like those people who make "MegaBlocks" or whatever can make a cheap knock-offs with crappier plastic and whatnot and sell it for less.
  • They do this in much the same way that two Lego bricks might fit together - with several studs from the binding molecule slotting into, and so blocking, the sites on a toxin molecule which are needed to cause damage.

    I'm no biochemist, but from my rudimentary understanding of medicinal functions in the human body....isn't this how most medicines function? By 'binding' onto rogue molecules, or enabling the white blood corpuscles to do the same?

    • 'm no biochemist, but from my rudimentary understanding of medicinal functions in the human body....isn't this how most medicines function? By 'binding' onto rogue molecules, or enabling the white blood corpuscles to do the same?

      IANA Biochemist either, but my basic understanding of the big benefit of the nano-structure approach is that you can *make* the nano-structures. The drug discovery process is VERY slow - it takes years and basically a lot of luck. If we can get some success manufacturing the ri
    • The scientists knew that certain protein shapes could bind to toxins produced by the anthrax bacteria. They've found that embedding the proteins in liposomes, which are vesicles comprised of a phospholipid bilayer just like ordinary cell membranes, significantly increased their effectiveness. They've figured out how high of density of proteins to embed in the liposome surfaces so that the distance between proteins matches up with bonding sites on the toxins, forming a stronger bond and a better chance of bo
      • I forgot to mention, this research wasn't in response to the anthrax attacks a couple years ago. They started looking at anthrax before that. There's also pretty good potential that this method of binding protein receptors to liposomes at statistically calculated densities can be used to deal effectively with other toxins, as well.
    • To give a balanced answer: Yes and No.

      Many drugs work by binding to a target protein and inhibiting its activity in this way. However, there are several ways to achieve this. The conventional form of drug is a "small molecule", created by organic chemistry. These are called small because they are much smaller (and less complex) than proteins -- say more than a factor 10 smaller.

      Small molecules can have enormous advantages: They are relatively easy to manufacture and to store, and if they are stable enough a
  • The only drawback, as with Lego, is that once you attach a block to the "base", it occupies those "connections". This isn't quite like Lego in that you probably can't just use the connectors on top of the new nanoscale structures to get at whatever the cell was doing anyhow... or maybe you can, and science is completely way more badass than I thought!
    • think "tiles [lego.com]" in lego-terminology, not building blocks, which have studs on top. "tiles" are one-third height pieces with smooth tops.
  • by Itninja (937614) on Monday April 24, 2006 @03:09PM (#15191892) Homepage
    All I know is, know one has truly known pain until they have been barefoot and stepped on one of these molecules.
  • 'Lego' Approach Thwarts Anthrax Toxin

    Now if they can only thwart the germs all over the Legos themselves, this would be an advance in disease resistance.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    With mint frosting?
  • by Soko (17987)
    NewScientist is reporting that scientists have discovered complex nanoscale structures that have successfully protected rats from anthrax.

    So, with this protecting them, we can't use anthrax on these rats [arstechnica.com] now? Pity.

    We all know that anything that helps protect a politician is funded fully, quickly...

    Soko
  • by Spy der Mann (805235) <spydermann.slashdotNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday April 24, 2006 @03:21PM (#15191991) Homepage Journal
    stuck onto one large molecule, which bind to toxins and prevent them from causing damage.

    That's called an antibody [wikipedia.org].
  • by the_tsi (19767) on Monday April 24, 2006 @03:26PM (#15192028)
    Leela: I didn't want to leave them either Fry but what are we supposed to do?
    Fry: Well, usually on the show someone would come up with a complicated plan then explain it with a simple analogy.
    Leela: Hmm. If we can reroute engine power through the primary weapons and reconfigure them to Melllvar's frequency that should overload his electro-quantum structure.
    Bender: Like putting too much air in a ballon!
  • by Se7enLC (714730) on Monday April 24, 2006 @03:27PM (#15192035) Homepage Journal
    You just used the word LEGO to make me read this! LEGOs have about as much to do with this molecule binding as a bowl of petunias does!
  • by nycroft (653728) on Monday April 24, 2006 @03:29PM (#15192052) Homepage
    Shares of Lego, Inc. go through the roof as hudreds of thousands of biochemists rush to buy Lego products. The question is, which theme will help their research more? The pirate sets or the Star Wars [lego.com] sets? My money's on Star Wars.
  • They do this in much the same way that two Lego bricks might fit together - with several studs from the binding molecule slotting into, and so blocking, the sites on a toxin molecule which are needed to cause damage.

    So the idea is that you inject something into the body that has prongs shaped like the sockets on the toxins you're trying to capture. The innoculant binds to the sites and afterwards the toxin cannot bind into the places in the body where they do their damage.

    So my question is, how do we

  • by gardyloo (512791) on Monday April 24, 2006 @03:44PM (#15192185)
    Great! Just put about a thousand 4-year-olds in a room with a whole bunch of Lego blocks, and a huge molecular model. You don't even have to tell them what to do. Just continuously monitor the state of the room with video cameras, and once they have designed an appropriate antibody, encase the whole thing in carbonite.

        Monsanto, here we come!
  • with several studs from the binding molecule slotting into

    I'm sorry, but anything about several studs slotting into something should be labeled unsuitable for work!
  • Good week for antrax (Score:3, Interesting)

    by thePig (964303) <rajmohan_h&yahoo,com> on Monday April 24, 2006 @03:46PM (#15192204) Journal
    Two different studies, coming to conclusion this week.
    Now, along with the anthrax killer protien [sciencedaily.com], we are making progress, indeed.
    Whats more, this protien looks to be anti-resistant too.
  • They put Peptide in quotes like they didn't trust it.

    "Yes sir. We are still looking into the claims of this so-called 'peptide' molecule."

    Tom Caudron
    http://tom.digitalelite.com/ [digitalelite.com]
    • It's more of a prove of the authors incompetence.
      Peptides are certain linked molecules. "Peptide" is an scientific expression for "linked aminoacids", nothing more, nothing less.
      Putting it in quotes is as if you put "computer" or "internet" in qoutes. You make obvious your neither part of "the scene" nor have a clue what you're writing about.
  • by Anonymous Coward
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  • Doesn't seem like anyone understood the point of the article. The breakthrough isn't the peptide binding, it's the statistical method used to maximize affinity between the liposome molecule and the anthrax toxin.

    This would be a big discovery if, as the researchers suggest, the procedure can be applied to other bacteria or virii.
  • Doesnt putting rats in an air tight bag also protect them from anthrax? The biggest question is how do you GET the Legos in the Syringe?

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