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Picky proteins: A new angle for brain disorder therapeutics

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Many drugs designed to treat neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, and depression can fail to reach clinics because of side effects. The drugs target the wrong molecules and set off unwanted reactions. CSHL Professor Hiro Furukawa has engineered an antibody that avoids this problem by being very picky about what it targets. The picky protein inactivates a receptor called GluN1-GluN2B NMDA (NMDAR) on the surface of neurons that is involved in several brain diseases.

This video shows the picky protein latching onto the top of NMDAR. NMDAR controls an ion channel that helps transmit electrical signals in neurons. When the channel malfunctions, neurons can fire at the wrong times, causing neurological disorders. The antibody binds to the receptor surface and helps shut the channel. This prevents the neurons from being too active. Going forward, Furukawa and his team are optimizing the design of the picky protein to improve its potential for clinical use.

The video was produced by the Furukawa lab and this work was published in the journal Nature Communications earlier this year.