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Deciphering protein codes

LNLS looks for the key to designing new drugs

The National Laboratory of Synchrotron Light (LNLS) is a multi-disciplinary research center that possesses the only source of Synchrotron Light in the Southern Hemisphere. Synchronized light is of very high speed and covers infrared, ultraviolet and X rays. Since 1987, the LNLS has already carried out eight hundred scientific projects, there having been two hundred and one of them involving the crystallography of proteins. In 1998, it expanded its performance in the area of molecular biology implanting the Structural Molecular Biology Center (CBME).

The CMBE has a strategic role to play in the development of functional studies of sequenced genes. At the center two nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometers (RNM) have been installed, besides the crystallography laboratories using X rays, which allows the unraveling of the structure of the expressed proteins of these genes, the key to the rational design of inhibiting drugs of pathological processes. Coordinated by Rogério Meneghini, The Structural Molecular Biology Center makes up one of the ten Cepids ( Portuguese acronym for Center of Research, Innovation and Diffusion) maintained by FAPESP. It is installed on an area of 3,000 m2, distributed over two floors of a building built by the LNLS itself, which received resources from FAPESP for the set up of the entire infrastructure necessary for its working.


Synchrotron light technology has already made possible the definition of the three dimensional structure of some fifteen proteins during these last two years, among them the DNA of cancerous cells, the X protein of hepatitis B and the proteins of malaria and Chagas's disease. According to Meneghini, the definition of the structure of these proteins permits the design and definition of characteristics of chemical substances more adequate to serve as a base for the manufacture of medicines that can hold back the advance of the illnesses related to them. This is knowledge of great importance since more than 50% of the medicines currently in use react as inhibitors of proteins.

The installations of the CBME were conceived within the most rigid rules of safety, cleanliness, layout and quality of installation. “The structure mounted with the resources of the Infra Program, more stimulating and motivating, is going to permit that the Center's team, today made up of forty two people, to double over the next two years,” announces Meneghini.