SHAFAQNA- A wonder drug which could fight cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes could be developed within 10 years following a breakthrough by scientists.
Imperial College has discovered how to turn off an enzyme which is driving many incurable diseases.
The NMT enzyme makes irreversible changes to proteins which stop damaged cells from dying and, instead, speeds up their replication, causing cancer.
It can be responsible for cancers become resistant to chemotherapy.
It is also known to be involved in Alzheimer’s disease, although scientists are unclear as to how it works.
But now researchers have identified more than 100 proteins that the enzyme interacts with and have discovered a molecule which acts like an ‘off switch.’
The breakthrough could lead to a new generation of drugs which can be used for a number of different diseases.
“This work opens a completely new avenue for the treatment of these diseases, and works very differently from other drugs currently under development,” said lead researcher Professor Ed Tate, from the Department of Chemistry at Imperial College London
“We now have a much fuller picture of how NMT operates, and more importantly how it can be inhibited, than ever before.
“Eventually we hope this would simply be a pill you could take. It will be perhaps 10 years or so to a drug ‘on the market’ but there are many hurdles to get over.”
The team believes the same enzyme could be driving auto-immune diseases like diabetes and parasitic infections.
The chemists used living human cancer cells to identify more than 100 proteins that NMT affects.
In one experiment the team programmed cells to die – as would happen in chemotherapy – and discovered that the enzyme stopped the process.
Researchers hope that a drug to switch off the enzyme could be used to prevent cancers becoming resistant drugs.
The work is so complex that a whole new set of equipment had to be developed over several years to examine the impact of NMT.
Dr Emma Smith, Cancer Research UK’s senior science officer, said: “This promising research could lead to new treatments for cancer patients, and for people with other types of disease too. Drugs targeting the molecule the team studied could make current cancer treatments more potent and help stop the cancer coming back.
“The next steps will be to develop this idea and make a drug – but there’s a way to go before we’ll know if it’s safe and effective in people.”
The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.