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Method reveals secrets of drug receptors in cells

Memphis, Tennessee, June 15, 2021

Researcher sits at table and reads paper in office.

Scott Blanchard, PhD, of Structural Biology, contributed to research that studied cell receptor proteins to help lead to a new generation of drugs that are more precise and have fewer side effects. 

Like customers tracking package deliveries, researchers can now follow drug receptors moving along the membrane of a living cell.

Scientists at St. Jude and Columbia University worked together to create a tracking system. The focus is on a family of receptor proteins. One-third of drugs rely on the proteins to transmit signals from outside to inside cells.

The result is a method that can precisely track how these proteins change shape and position as they bind to drugs. The information could lead to a new generation of drugs that work more precisely and have fewer side effects.

“This is just the beginning of a new avenue for exploring life inside the human cell,” said Scott Blanchard, PhD, of Structural Biology.

A report on this research appeared in Nature Methods.

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