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What if medicines have no side effect?

According to Arun Shukla, associate professor, European Molecular Biology Organization young investigator and lead scientist on the project, about 40% of currently prescribed drugs target GPCRs which are responsible for transfer of information across the cell membrane.

science Updated: Oct 10, 2018 10:23 IST
Jayashree Nandi
Jayashree Nandi
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
medicines,medicines side effects,addiction
Scientists at Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur’s biological sciences and bio-engineering department are studying how certain signalling pathways in the body can be nurtured to be targeted and unwanted pathways subdued. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

What if morphine works only as a powerful painkiller without side-effects like addiction, drowsiness, constipation and respiratory distress? Scientists believe such drug improvements are within sight.

Scientists at Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur’s biological sciences and bio-engineering department are studying how certain signalling pathways in the body can be nurtured to be targeted and unwanted pathways subdued.

According to Arun Shukla, associate professor, European Molecular Biology Organization young investigator and lead scientist on the project, about 40% of currently prescribed drugs target GPCRs (G-protein coupled receptors), which are responsible for transfer of information across the cell membrane. This is because GPCRs can sense molecules outside the cell membrane and activate signal pathways, leading to a variety of cellular responses.

GPCR targeting drugs are mostly used in congestive heart failure, hypertension, asthma, allergies, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease and cancer. But these drugs also activate other information pathways along with GPCRs, leading to unwanted effects of drugs.

“We are studying how we can modify the drug, change its chemical structure so that only one pathway is activated,” said Shukla, whose project was showcased as a young achiever project at the ongoing India International Science Festival (IISF).

Another project being done by Shukla’s team is developing synthetic antibodies to accelerate GPCR research. “These antibodies will help us visualise the structure of the drug bound to the receptor, so we can see how we can improve the structure of the drug,” he added.

His team’s research is similar to this year’s Nobel Prize winning project in chemistry that has recognised evolution of new proteins, antibodies for producing new pharmaceuticals, Shukla said. The IIT-Kanpur team has proposed developing a national facility for synthetic antibody generation to the department of biotechnology (DBT).

Other young scientists who shared their ideas at the Young Scientists’ Conference include Nitin Sisodia, a National Institute of Design graduate and founder of Sohum Innovation Lab, who is working on providing a cost-effective screening technology for hearing loss among newborns. He has partnered with the Rajasthan and Tripura governments to start screening work. “...I want to ensure that infant auditory brain stem response screening is available and affordable,” he said.

Inspired by the similarity in the structure of the different colours in peacock feathers found abundantly on campus, Kantesh Balani, a professor at IIT Kanpur, is developing colours that do not fade. Balani is also working on materials that can resist thermal damage and withstand even 10,000 degree temperatures. This can be applied in making fire suits and spacecraft material.

First Published: Oct 10, 2018 07:47 IST