Molecular ‘prosthetics’ research spotlighted by Chemical Science journal

Research led by the School of Chemistry and Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology published in a major chemistry journal has been identified as a major step forward in bio-mimetic chemistry.

Chemical Science, the flagship journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), has selected Professor Andy Wilson’s article “A Catalytic Protein-Proteomimetic Complex: Using Aromatic Oligoamide Foldamers as Activators of RNase S” as its Pick of the Week – a distinction its editorial team uses to highlight research considered particularly innovative or noteworthy.

The article describes fundamental research demonstrating that it is possible to replace a critical part of a protein with a molecular “prosthetic” that mimics the shape and key compositional features of the original part, resulting in restoration of the protein’s original function.

Replacing components of proteins piece-by-piece with synthetic building blocks in this way offers a potential alternative to the bottom-up construction of abiotic foldamers – designer molecules that mimic the exquisite and complex three-dimensional structures of proteins.

Diagram from the study

Professor Wilson explains: “What we have done is analogous to replacement of a body part, e.g. a hip replacement – right now what we have achieved is prosthesis, in that we have replaced part of the protein with something that “manages the job”, but as we move forward the vision would be to create a bionic protein i.e something that has advantageous or superior properties and function.”

This is a significant finding for scientists interested in building bio-inspired functional molecular machines.