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Spider silk could help in the fight against cancer

Research continues to try to find a treatment or a vaccine against cancer. In this context, a team of scientists working at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden has just found a new method that could allow progress in this fight. Their technique is based on the use of spider silk.

According to these scientists, the use of spider silk could allow a certain anticancer protein called p53 to have a longer lifespan. This protein would thus be better able to protect our cells against cancer.

The research team suggests that with improvements, spider silk could even be used to develop an mRNA vaccine in the future.

A complex functioning protein

The p53 protein is a protein found in our cells. It’s a protein that suppresses tumors. Its function as a tumor suppressor allows it to play a key role in cell division by preventing this division from getting out of control. The p53 protein is like a quality controller that binds to DNA and checks it for damage caused by external agents such as UV light or certain chemicals.

Once the damage is identified by p53, it will decide if this damage can be corrected. The corrections will be made either by activating a genetic pathway to repair, or by activating the apoptosis pathway to destroy the cell if the damage is too great. If p53 is compromised, cells can divide rapidly and create a tumor.

Stabilize p53 with spider silk

Mutations in the p53 protein are seen in about half of all cancers. It is an unstable protein with a bulky structure and a complex function. You can’t just supplement it or increase the activity of the gene that makes it. According to scientists, the ideal would be to find a way to stabilize it so that it can stay longer in the cells. Using another protein to stabilize it could be the solution. That’s why the team behind the new study thought of spider silk.

Spider silk is made up of long chains of very stable proteins, and is one of the strongest natural polymers. This is why the researchers thought that it would be perfect to stabilize the p53 protein using this stable protein that nature created.

During their study, the researchers fused the two proteins and found that the new protein born from the fusion was more stable than p53. This new protein also appears to be a biologically active protein, which may allow it to prevent tumor formation more effectively than the standard p53 protein.

For the time being, no test has yet been carried out to know the real effects of protein fusion on tumor suppression. The researchers only noted the stability of the new protein and the fact that it is biologically active. More research is needed to determine how the fusion protein will interact with other proteins to prevent cancer. It will also be necessary to check if the spider silk will not cause problems if used in large quantities.

SOURCE: IFLScience

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