New UK laboratory to focus on important medical targets
News Sep 02, 2008
Diamond is the UK’s synchrotron science facility and is one of 60 such research facilities worldwide all with different characteristics and varying purposes. The MPL is the world’s first membrane protein laboratory to be based inside a synchrotron. The new laboratory is a joint venture between Diamond Light Source and Imperial College London, with funding from the Wellcome Trust. Financial support has also been provided by Japanese Science and Technology (JST) to set up the Human Receptor Crystallography project, which funded part of the equipment and staff who currently work at the MPL.
Solving the structures of proteins forms a large part of the structural biology work at Diamond and the Membrane Protein Laboratory has been established to assist researchers who are working specifically on membrane proteins, which are embedded in the membranes that coat the thousands of cells in our bodies. These proteins make up around 30% of the human genome. We have over 7,000 membrane proteins in our bodies and many of these are important drug targets, in fact over 50% of current commercially available drugs target membrane proteins.
However, to date, scientists have only solved the structures of 170 membrane proteins and less than five of the 7,000 human membrane proteins. This is largely due to the fact that, in order to determine their structures, you need to crystallise the membrane proteins, which is extremely difficult to do. Having a dedicated laboratory with cutting edge equipment within the Diamond synchrotron building, close to the experimental stations where membrane protein structures can be solved, will greatly enhance scientists’ ability to successfully crystallise membrane proteins and further our understanding of these important drug targets.
Prof. So Iwata from Imperial College London’s Department of Life Sciences is Director of the Membrane Protein Laboratory and also a Diamond Fellow. Prof. Iwata comments, “The opening of the Membrane Protein Laboratory marks a very exciting development in the study of the most intractable of the large biological molecules: the membrane proteins. These proteins are generally avoided by structural biologists as they are a challenge to study due to the fact that they are very oily and hydrophobic. Diamond and Imperial have teamed up to create the Membrane Protein Laboratory so that expertise in this specialist field can be shared and we can encourage other structural biologists to take on the challenge of solving these difficult but extremely important proteins.”
Prof. Gerd Materlik, Chief Executive of Diamond, adds, “The MPL will provide equipment and expertise to membrane protein crystallographers from around the world and we are delighted to have it sited here at Diamond, the UK’s national synchrotron science facility. This new laboratory is a vibrant symbol of the nation’s commitment to remain at the forefront of scientific endeavour and the hunt for new and more effective drugs to cure many of the most important and serious diseases. Through its work in this field, the MPL will contribute to the knowledge economy of the UK and Europe by helping to develop the health and welfare of its citizens.”
For more information about the MPL: