Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Biology Week Drug Smuggler
18 October 2013

Drug Smuggler

Some naturally occurring proteins interact with medicines in surprising ways. A protein called P-gp, for example, sits on the cell surface and shuttles a broad range of drugs out wards. It plays a role in multidrug resistance in cancer – if it becomes abundant the cancer cells can eliminate not only the current medicine, but a host of others too, leaving the patient with few options. Scientists studying asthma are also interested in this protein because it could influence the absorption of medicines taken by inhaler. Pictured is a human airway surrounded by epithelial cells (green) with P-gp highlighted in red. Asthma medicines are often only required at the lung surface and some produce side effects elsewhere in the body. So P-gp might act as a natural barrier preventing drugs from crossing into the blood supply. A better understanding of this protein’s role is important for the development of new medicines.

Written by Julie Webb

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