Kinase analysis biochip 'will speed up cancer drug development'

A high-tech device could speed up life-saving drug discoveries after a team of UK researchers came up with a new way of detecting the activity of enzymes.

In healthy human cells, enzymes known as kinases regulate a number of biological processes necessary for survival. However, when kinases become overactive or impaired it can cause life-threatening diseases such as cancer, autoimmune disorders, Alzheimer’s and diabetes.

Scientists from the University of Bath have developed a biochip that will allow pharmaceutical companies to simultaneously measure a large number of compounds and select which can be developed into drugs to fight against diseases.

Giordano Pula, one of the authors of the paper published in Nature, said: “This technology has the potential to change the drug discovery process as we know it and facilitate the development of new drugs for diseases like cancer, stroke and dementia.

“The simplicity is the strength of this technology. This discovery significantly simplifies the analysis of protein kinase activity and frees it from the use of radioisotopes or antibodies.”

The patented technology combines semiconductor devices that measure protein kinase activity by calculating pH change, which indicates the effectiveness of a drug compound in blocking kinase activity. According to the researchers it will lead to faster and more cost-effective ways of finding new drugs.

The next step is to develop the system into a prototype that can be used by the pharmaceutical companies.

The device was developed by researchers Dr Pedro Estrela, PhD student Nikhil Bhalla, Dr Mirella Di Lorenzo and Dr Giordano Pula.

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