Light-sensitive molecules for new disease therapies
Peptidomimetics are small molecules that mimic short natural proteins - peptides - and produce the same effects as their natural counterparts. An EU-funded project is developing peptidomimetics that can alternate between biologically active and inactive forms when exposed to light. The technique could lead to new light-controlled drugs which can be turned off and on when needed to treat cancers and other diseases.
© ipopba #205999518, 2019 source: stock.adobe.com
Peptides are vital for the biological functioning of virtually every known organism. Peptidomimetics are compounds that mimic a natural peptide and can interact with a biological target to produce a desired biological effect.
The EU-funded PELICO project is developing peptidomimetics that can switch between two forms: either biologically inactive or biologically active when exposed to light of specific wavelengths.
The compounds can be irradiated with physiologically benign red light and converted to biologically active form when they are within disease lesions, for example, in tumours. This can be achieved with a very high level of precision, enabling a highly targeted and clearly delineated application of the active peptidomimetics to cure localised diseases.
The PELICO team is carrying out work in four main areas. First, the project is carrying out pharmacokinetic and toxicity studies of photo-controlled peptidomimetics synthesised under previous research. Second, novel photo-controlled building blocks are being evaluated to ascertain their compatibility with peptides. Then, new photo-controlled peptidomimetics are being created, based on these novel building blocks.
Finally, PELICO researchers are undergoing multidisciplinary training. This will enable them to carry out further work on the development of the most advanced photo-controlled peptidomimetics, to be used as drugs in targeted therapeutic approaches.
PELICO researchers believe this new approach represents a real breakthrough in the design, synthesis and application of peptide analogues. Initial testing is being carried out with a special emphasis on antimicrobial and cancer treatments.
The project was funded through the EUs Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowship programme. .