FUN2CYT, a project developed at the Molecular and Environmental Biology Center (CBMA) of the UMinho School of Sciences and led by Andreia Gomes, proposes to create new advanced materials for the exploration of cytokines (messenger proteins present in our body) with resource to gold and ultraviolet light.
The objective is, essentially, to give these proteins produced in the laboratory more stability and safety in their delivery, as drugs, for example. Another advantage is that these molecules are produced using cell factories.
“Cytokines are signaling molecules in our body and are linked to a series of very important reactions. If a person has an infection, the response process is often mediated by these cytokines. Basically, they are messengers and they are proteins that are very difficult to work with because the amount of these molecules we have in our body dictates whether we are going to have a response, in what direction and with what intensity, to certain activities of our body", begins with explain André da Costa, researcher on the project.
This type of protein is, however, easily degraded and, therefore, it is essential “to find a way to take them to certain areas of our body, in a more protected way and, ideally, in the right amount”.
Through the use of the fermentation process, as in the production of wine, the team “grows microorganisms, which use nutrients such as sugar, to produce these proteins”. This process will allow the creation of cytokines in a “biological, vegan and avoiding, as much as possible, the use of aggressive products”.
This biological synthesis is an alternative to chemical synthesis, which uses chemical reagents to deconstruct cytokine properties. At the moment, the team is “trying various strategies to apply these biologically produced proteins in the body”. One of them concerns the creation, in the laboratory, of gold nanoparticles on the surface of which these cytokines are immobilized using pulses of ultraviolet light.
In general, this investigation “is a way of granting messenger proteins, which are cytokines, more safety and stability in a biological way”, concludes André da Costa. This could be an important step for the areas of biomedicine and research.