Practical Applications - Drug Design

Professor Gellman and his research group are working on designing beta peptides that adopt specific shapes. They can do this by figuring out patterns of secondary structure that result from the primary structure of the protein. Once they have an understanding of the secondary structure, they can go on to study and understand tertiary structure.

For instance, one graduate student in Professor Gellman's group is working on designing a molecule that has just the right shape to weaken and help control cancer cells. Without this molecule cancer cells can multiply and create tumors.

Another graduate student is working on a protein that would be the right shape to keep HIV from entering and infecting human cells. This small molecule would lie on the surface of the cell and keep the HIV virus from attaching to the cell.

Remember, unlike peptides made of alpha amino acids, beta peptides are not recognized by the body and as a result, they can be used as drugs. Alpha peptides would be broken down by the body before they could do their job as a drug.

Below is the same picture that was seen on the last page. This time when you look at the picture, think of the examples given above!

Things To Think About