Bryostatin is a chemical currently being tested as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and HIV/AIDS. However, it’s very difficult to produce so it could be easier to develop compounds which are structurally similar to it, but easier to make. Bryostatin works by binding PKC, a protein found in the cell membrane, which triggers signals to other parts of the cell. Scientists have recently examined the structure of PKC – which is challenging as it can only be studied when in the cell membrane, not pure in a tube – and found that bryostatin causes it to act differently from when it is bound to other chemicals. With other chemicals, PKC embeds itself into the cell membrane (left) whereas with bryostatin it doesn’t go in so far, and tilts (right). This could explain bryostatin’s effects, and will help in the quest to develop chemicals that can do the same thing to PKC.
Written by Esther Redhouse White
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