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'Lego' Approach Thwarts Anthrax Toxin

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the really-did-learn-everything-you-need-to-know-in-kindergarten dept.

78

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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Ho Hum... (3, Insightful)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 8 years ago | (#15191856)

Sheesh... whover wrote this hasnt a clue...

That's the way EVERYTHING in biochemistry works!

Re:Ho Hum... (5, Funny)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#15191903)

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

KFG

Re:Ho Hum... (2, Funny)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 8 years ago | (#15192029)

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"

Re:Ho Hum... (1)

Glowing Fish (155236) | more than 8 years ago | (#15192178)

I can't imagine what a LEGO world with no hemoglobin...everyone would be yellow, I imagine.

Re:Ho Hum... (1, Interesting)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 8 years ago | (#15191989)

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... (-1, Flamebait)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 8 years ago | (#15192843)

Just in case you weren't awayre: You are an underinformed, paranoid reactionary.

You don't know what nanotech means. You don't know the first thing about medicine or biochemistry. You should not participate in a discussion on either. As it is used here, nanotech==chemistry. If this scares you, then you should be afraid of all medicine.

Re:Ho Hum... (0, Flamebait)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 8 years ago | (#15192893)

And you, sir, are a jackass. But I can become better informed, while civil discourse will forever elude you.

Re:Ho Hum... (3, Funny)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 8 years ago | (#15193852)

I won't deny the jackass claim. My post was blunt and insensitive. But based on the topic at hand, it was accurate. The words I used to describe your character were supported by my post, and were not overtly offensive, unlike the word "jackass." Fortunately, as you pointed out, you can rectify these personal flaws. There is no cure for being a jackass.

I have but three serious perturbations: people who stand in the way of scientific progress, the use of logical fallacies, and carnies (you know, circus folk. very small hands. smell like cabbage.)

With that in mind, I only now noticed your sig. Your violation of my first personal peeve is somewhat rectified by your support of my second. If I had seen it earlier, I may have formed my reply using more flowery prose. You have been added to my "friends" list. Unless, of course, you are a carnie.

Besides, this is the internet. Civil discourse hasn't been here since the early 1990s.

Re:Ho Hum... (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195846)

Yes, you're quite right. I read "nanoscale" as "nanotube" when I read through it the first time, which shifted my gears mentally into the realm of nanotech rather than chemistry.

I can only plead lack of caffeine as an excuse, because I actually do understand the difference between the two, and was heartly embarassed when I re-read the article to get the quote to point out how utterly right I was...or not.

And no, I'm not a carnie. :)

Re:Ho Hum... (2, Interesting)

posterlogo (943853) | more than 8 years ago | (#15192101)

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 very simple. Create an immobilized synthetic binding site for the toxin so you can essentially titrate it out of solution so it is no longer free to do its toxic thing.

I think it's the tunability that's new (2, Insightful)

Quadraginta (902985) | more than 8 years ago | (#15192124)

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 you could rapidly and cheaply create many different antagonists for many different poisons. It's hugely cheaper to just vary the density of peptide binding sites on your liposome than it is to synthesize a whole range of molecular backbones to hold the peptide groups in different arrangements.

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? After all, you don't want to have to feed your patient as much of the antagonist as they gave these poor rats: 500 mg for a 300 g rat is a dosage of 1.7 grams/kilo of body weight! A normal man (65 kg) would have to have over 100 grams of the stuff injected into him. That's an absurd amount of medicine and is bound to have deleterious side effects.

Re:I think it's the tunability that's new (1)

P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022) | more than 8 years ago | (#15192284)

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.

Re:I think it's the tunability that's new (1)

jrau (880696) | more than 8 years ago | (#15193367)

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 than oxygen, but that is more than enough to suffocate you at a fairly low concentration (this is due to the way the quaternary structure of the hemoglobin molecule coopertively binds multiple oxygen/CO molecules).

Either way, the point is that there are a lot of different ways this thing could have increased efficacy without a huge delivery volume or extremely high binding affinity.

Re:I think it's the tunability that's new (1)

umgah (813917) | more than 8 years ago | (#15193945)

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 as molar (M). The lower the Kd, the "stronger" the binding interaction. Drugs are usually designed to have a "high affinity" for their target (e.g. Kd values in the low nM to pM range). So, if a peptide has a binding affinity of 1 uM (micromolar) for it's target...then an engineered molecule - such as the one mentioned in the article - may have an affinity around 1 nM (nanomolar). The thing is...some peptides themselves have high affinities for their target, so the peptide could already have a very high affinity in the nM range. The article is lacking such details. So, to answer your question, perhaps an affinity that is "thousands" of times better is good enough...depending on the affinity of the peptide/target interaction that they are starting with.

By the articles description of the liposome construct, it could be that the binding is improved simply through an avidity effect. Basically, apparent binding strength can be increased by including multiple binding sites for the target molecule (e.g. by diplaying multiple peptides on a liposome...yielding a multivalent liposome).

It's difficult to assess how novel this technique is based on the article itself. However, there are many studies related to functionalized liposomes and nanoparticles for use as potential drugs. A Google Scholar search on "targeted drug delivery liposome" yields thousands of hits. Also, the idea of creating multivalent liposomes has been around for a while...as evidenced by a similar Google search.

Re:Ho Hum... (1)

BamZyth (940235) | more than 8 years ago | (#15192376)

"slotting into, and so blocking, the sites" Slashdotting taken at a whole new level

Re:Ho Hum... (1)

sunwolf (853208) | more than 8 years ago | (#15192840)

I like how they put the word peptide in quotes...as if it's some sort of mythical creature.

Re:Ho Hum... (2, Funny)

iamlucky13 (795185) | more than 8 years ago | (#15193022)

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.

Next time (1)

bakayoko (570822) | more than 8 years ago | (#15193993)

It should come from the but-who-will-protect-us-from-nanotech dept.

Patent Violation (4, Funny)

MLopat (848735) | more than 8 years ago | (#15191859)

Doesn't Lego have a patent on the whole block stacking concept? Looks like they're in for a legal battle on this one. :)

Re:Patent Violation (1)

SuperRob (31516) | more than 8 years ago | (#15192095)

The author of the Slashdot post can thank his lucky stars that he didn't say "legos". They REALLY hate that!

Re:Patent Violation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15192742)

or Lego My Ego -jrlms

Re:Patent Violation (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 8 years ago | (#15192333)

So what if rats will win this legal battle, will they accept damages payment in lego shaped cheese blocks?

Re:Patent Violation (1)

Germik (955292) | more than 8 years ago | (#15192568)

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.

um. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15191867)

.....so they synthesized an inhibitor? kay.

'Lego' Approach - new'...?? (1)

GillBates0 (664202) | more than 8 years ago | (#15191876)

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?

Re:'Lego' Approach - new'...?? (1)

m0nstr42 (914269) | more than 8 years ago | (#15193141)

'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 right binding sites, etc, then we can short circuit the whole process.

The Article with all the crap filtered out: (2, Interesting)

iamlucky13 (795185) | more than 8 years ago | (#15193311)

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 bonding to begin with.

In their control group, 8 out of 9 rats given the toxin (not the actual anthrax bacteria, though) died. In the test group, only 1 of 9 rats given the toxin plus 500 mg of the protein-embedded liposomes died. Since the protein only targets the toxin, the treatment would have to be used in conjunction with antibiotics to kill the bacteria. There is no mention in the article whether the toxins and liposomes are flushed out of the body or broken down, but the end result is that the toxins can't bind to whatever it is they normally do to cause trouble.

Liposome probably isn't a familiar term, so look up liposome [wikipedia.org] or cell membrane [wikipedia.org] (includes drawing of embedded proteins) if you want to get a better understanding. Wikipedia has a decent article on anthrax, but I googled and found a much better write up [textbookof...iology.net] from the University of Wisconsin that might help you get a good "big picture" look at what goes on.

From my reading it looks like there are multiple toxins. One causes septic shock through a method that is apparently not yet fully understood. It bonds to a protein in the cell membrane (just like the proteins in the liposomes), and interferes with cellular signalling. Fascinatingly, two other toxins actually cause ATP depletion and swelling in phagocytes (a particular type of cell in the immune system) so that they aren't able to engulf the anthrax bacteria and break them down. It's like a biological counter-countermeasure. Not karma whoring...I just thought after I'd looked up all that information some other people would be interested, too. All this reminds me why I enjoyed biology so much back in high school.

Re:The Article with all the crap filtered out: (1)

iamlucky13 (795185) | more than 8 years ago | (#15193446)

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.

Re:'Lego' Approach - new'...?? (2, Interesting)

Mutatis Mutandis (921530) | more than 8 years ago | (#15193460)

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 and well absorbed, they can be taken orally. If you want something simple and cheap for large-scale use, a small molecule is the way to go. However, the downside is that they are very complex and expensive to develop.

The other big category is that of the "biologicals", which includes proteins and peptides -- a peptide is essentially a small fragment of a protein, but still bigger than a small molecule. Antibodies are a category of proteins; in the case of antibodies, development is relatively easy because the body produces them naturally. There is also the possibility of taking a protein's natural binding partner, and then synthesising this on a large scale to outcompete the natural binding partner. The general expectation is that biogicals will be easier to develop than small molecules and for many diseases, will be the first form of treatment available.

The typical disadvantages of biologicals are that they need to be stored in a freezer, must be injected rather than swallowed or inhaled, and are expensive to manufacture. This usually restricts their use to relatively small numbers of patients, in hospital environments or receiving intense attention from their physicians. (Insulin is a well-known exception, however.)

Some people believe that small molecules are fundamentally unable to block certain interactions. The reasoning is that that something small can only attach efficiently to a target site if the available forces on that site are large enough, i.e. if there is a so-called "pocket" to fit the molecule in. While biologicals, because they are bigger, can bind over a wider area, so can be effective even if smaller forces are involved.

In this case, the scientists took peptides, which are relatively small, but instead of combining them into an actual protein (which would have been very complex and expensive) they grouped them together on the surface of a liposome, which essentially is a tiny droplet of fat. And the observation is that indeed, the interaction of the multiple peptides with the target still adds up, giving the liposome a much stronger binding to its target than the individual liposomes.

This creates numerous interesting possibilities. This might work with small molecules as well as peptides, for example; or you might even combine the two in a single treatment.

unfortunate side effect- nothing else gets in (1)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 8 years ago | (#15191877)

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!

Re:unfortunate side effect- nothing else gets in (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15191952)

In other words, you have absolutely nothing of value to add to this article and were just trying to get the first post.

Re:unfortunate side effect- nothing else gets in (1)

Andrew Kismet (955764) | more than 8 years ago | (#15192192)

Kinda like you, 'cept with "be an asshole" instead of "get the first post."

To balance my critique... this has as much to do with lego as tap-dancing. The article writer's just trying to make his article more interesting using a reasonably valid analogy for the masses of non-biochemists. New Scientist is read by a suprisingly large number of people.
"They also gave nine rats a lethal dose of the anthrax toxin, injected into their tails..."
Ow. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't like a needle of Anthrax jabbed up my ass, even if it was to help a superior species survive. XP

Re:unfortunate side effect- nothing else gets in (1)

a55clown (723455) | more than 8 years ago | (#15192967)

think "tiles [lego.com] " in lego-terminology, not building blocks, which have studs on top. "tiles" are one-third height pieces with smooth tops.

Dang microscopic kids! (5, Funny)

Itninja (937614) | more than 8 years ago | (#15191892)

All I know is, know one has truly known pain until they have been barefoot and stepped on one of these molecules.

Mechanism of action (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15191894)

Turns out the anthrax bacilli are too busy playing to synthesize the toxins. Now they just have to figure out how to get tiny little nanoscale castles and dinosaurs and shit out of the body.

Block Germs (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#15191908)

'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.

Cellular peptide cake (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15191918)

With mint frosting?

Re:Cellular peptide cake (1)

dfn5 (524972) | more than 8 years ago | (#15192117)

Kill zem. You must kill zem all...

Re:Cellular peptide cake (1)

joranbelar (567325) | more than 8 years ago | (#15192434)

For those not in the know:

Cellular Peptide Cake [ytmnd.com]

Re:Cellular peptide cake (1)

chivo243 (808298) | more than 8 years ago | (#15192535)

it was mint frosting, but now it's chocolate, and Troi loves it!

Scratch one for the good guys, then (0, Offtopic)

unity100 (970058) | more than 8 years ago | (#15191921)

Well another yet-to-come anti-terror success, way better than any legislation u.s./british governments passed.

Re:Scratch one for the good guys, then (1)

Sqwubbsy (723014) | more than 8 years ago | (#15192594)

Well another yet-to-come anti-terror success, way better than any legislation u.s./british governments passed.

Like the legislation that funded this research?

This will go far. (1, Offtopic)

Soko (17987) | more than 8 years ago | (#15191927)

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

Old Legos Maybe (1)

techpawn (969834) | more than 8 years ago | (#15191943)

The 'New Legos' style give you special made blocks and directions to build it exactly like it is on outside of the box.

Great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15191977)

Just what we need, disease resistant rats.

Surprise, surprise... (4, Interesting)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 8 years ago | (#15191991)

stuck onto one large molecule, which bind to toxins and prevent them from causing damage.

That's called an antibody [wikipedia.org] .

spy duh man, strikes again. (3, Insightful)

twitter (104583) | more than 8 years ago | (#15192210)

That's called an antibody.

It's nice to be able to make them to order for formerly untreatable disseases.

Re:Surprise, surprise... (1)

Otter (3800) | more than 8 years ago | (#15192323)

That's called an antibody.

Antibodies bind to targets, as do all sorts of other biochemical molecules. (As others have pointed out.) This isn't an antibody.

Re:Surprise, surprise... (1)

m0nstr42 (914269) | more than 8 years ago | (#15193154)

That's called an antibody.

Yes, a custom-made antibody - not a drug that takes years to develop (basically by chance). That's the point.

Re:Surprise, surprise... (1)

abhinavnath (157483) | more than 8 years ago | (#15193783)

Not quite: it's more interesting than that. The Nature Biotechnology paper referenced in TFA goes into more detail.

A simple version: the anthrax bacterium makes a particular protein complex - the anthrax toxin - that disrupts cell membranes. This toxin has seven-fold symmetry, meaning that it is made up of seven identical subunits. There are various peptides that bind to each subunit and inhibit the anthrax toxin, thereby protecting cells.

What this group has done is to make liposomes (fat globules, not antibodies) with different concentrations of these peptides on the surface. When the density of inhibitory peptides on the liposomes roughly matches the density of target sites (one on each of the seven subunits) on the anthrax toxin, the inhibition is much more efficient. (This means you need much less of the peptide to protect cells.)

This general idea - of putting lots of inhibitory agents on one particle or compound - has been done before. The big advance here is that this is an easy way control the number & density of the inhibitors. Pretty slick.

Re:Surprise, surprise... (1)

salec (791463) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195086)

Mod parent informative!

Finally.... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15192003)

all those legos devoured in my younger years will finally go to use!

Like putting too many legos in a balloon! (4, Funny)

the_tsi (19767) | more than 8 years ago | (#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!

You just said Lego to make me read it! (2, Funny)

Se7enLC (714730) | more than 8 years ago | (#15192035)

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!

Re:You just said Lego to make me read it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15192218)

Oh no, not again.

Re:You just said Lego to make me read it! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15192242)

Curiously, the only thing that went through the mind of the bowl of petunias as it fell was, "Oh no, not again".

I can see it now... (2, Funny)

nycroft (653728) | more than 8 years ago | (#15192052)

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.

Re:I can see it now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15192120)

Nah. Batman lego sets rule the biochem labs.

Re:I can see it now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15192301)

Star wars is about space-ninjas. There's no way ninjas are as awesome as pirates.

Re:I can see it now... (1)

boingo82 (932244) | more than 8 years ago | (#15192420)

Blacktron, I'm sure of it.

is nano the new name for chemistry ? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15192161)


anything for funding egh, Chemistry sounds boring so lets call it nano engineering !!

I've always wondered about the whole block thing (1)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 8 years ago | (#15192167)

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 figure out if any other molecule in the body isn't the same shape? What if some important body protein or whatever has part of the same sequence in it, and the innoculation binds that up in lieu of Anthrax?

I'm sure that there is a methodology for discovering this, but I'm not in the field and have no idea what that would be. Anyone out there in Slashland know?

Re:I've always wondered about the whole block thin (1)

P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022) | more than 8 years ago | (#15192205)

Yeah, you inject it into rats and if they don't get sick and die your okay.

Re:I've always wondered about the whole block thin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15192977)

Well I believe that in general if there were something else in your body that had the same shape as the relevent site on the toxin or whatever, it would effectively be a toxin as well.

Re:I've always wondered about the whole block thin (2, Informative)

Mutatis Mutandis (921530) | more than 8 years ago | (#15193567)

Yes, it can happen. Look for a example at recent drug trial [bbc.co.uk] incident in London, where a therapeutic antibody that had good results in animals (and apparently mild side-effects in monkeys) had dramatic and potentially fatal side-effects in human volunteers.

The effects are rarely that dramatic, as the worst effects are usually discovered in animal trials. (For added safety, at least two species are used, one rodent and one non-rodent.) However, unwanted side effects are the rule rather than the exception, and the only really reliable way to find out so far is through tests on human volunteers. Most drugs do fail in these trials!

Actually, even the drugs that do pass the clinical test stage and are approved rarely work for all patients. The FDA is happy if the drug helps a sufficiently large fraction of patients, and does not real harm except in exceptional cases. It is the average cost-benefit that counts, not the result for the individual patient, which is at this moment often impossible to predict.

For there is genetic patient-to-patient variation among humans as well, not to mention genetic variation among pathogens, and a drug that fits the protein in the body of patient A may fail to do so in patient B. And a drug that does A and B no harm may have fatal effects in patient C.

Genetic targeting of drugs has already caused a controversy around NitroMed [nitromed.com] BiDil [bidil.com] , a heart medicine that is specifically effective for black patients — admittting that few Americans are of pure genetic "African" or "Caucasian" stock. The culturally acceptable (but scientifically dubious) solution is to allow patients to "self-identify" as black and therefore potential users.

For the future much hope is put in "personalized medicine", giving the patient a genetic analysis first to determine whether a drug would be really effective — or would have serious side effects. However, this too has obvious cultural and moral problems attached to it.

Sweet. Analog version of Folding @ Home (3, Funny)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 8 years ago | (#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!

Where is the not suitable for work warning? (1)

Jamil Karim (931849) | more than 8 years ago | (#15192196)

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 (3, Interesting)

thePig (964303) | more than 8 years ago | (#15192204)

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.

Is it an alias? (1)

caudron (466327) | more than 8 years ago | (#15192212)

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]

Re:Is it an alias?No it isn't. (2, Insightful)

Transcendor (907201) | more than 8 years ago | (#15192516)

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.

Sure, now they find something... (0, Redundant)

big dumb dog (876383) | more than 8 years ago | (#15192215)

Where were these 'peptide' molecules when I had to get all of those shots in the Army?

Obligatory Lego funding report (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15192912)

2006 Breakdown
==============
Thin 2x2's - $52,193.31
Fat 3x1's - $19,493.95
Spinners - $49,128.59
Folders - $23,485.20
1x1 blue see-through squares - $6,921.10
Damage due to separating pieces apart with teeth - $4,129.04

(-1 offtopic, but it was worth it!)

Breakthrough (1)

kenobi_wan_obi (586333) | more than 8 years ago | (#15193204)

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.

Re:Breakthrough (1)

Simon Garlick (104721) | more than 8 years ago | (#15194034)

"Viruses".

I agree but..... (1)

scistu (605790) | more than 8 years ago | (#15201292)

When was the last time you read an article that starts with, "A new statistical method to ........"

Trapped, like rats, in a chiapet! (1)

Fnordrick (971025) | more than 8 years ago | (#15208106)

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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