X-ray Crystallography at WEHI

  • Research Institute: Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research

  • Amount granted: $1 million

  • Year granted: 2001

The principal purpose of this grant was to purchase x-ray crystallography equipment to be housed in the newly established facility within the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI). This equipment permits the application of structural biology and drug discovery to the new knowledge and the development of improved treatments for cancer.

In essence, x-ray crystallography allows photographs to be taken of the 3-dimensional structure of proteins that are magnified 100 million times their real size. When such a detailed picture of the protein is available, it is possible to understand how that protein performs its complex chemical tasks in the body. Because many cancers are caused by malfunctioning proteins, this new knowledge can often be applied to the discovery of new medicines that correct the malfunction.

Achievements

Some cancers are caused by a failure in the molecular machinery of programmed cell death (apoptosis). In man, two opposing molecular families determine a cell’s fate, survival or death. It has been widely believed that all of the members of the ‘survival family’ are able to form molecular interactions with all of the members of the ‘death family’. We are undertaking an exhaustive analysis of these interactions using equipment purchased from the ACRF grant and find that, in contrast to the expected promiscuous cross-reactivity, some of the molecular interactions are highly selective. These findings are important because they suggest that it might be possible to selectively target drugs to particular members of the survival family and, consequently, to cause the death of cancer cells selectively.

Other ACRF grants awarded to Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research
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