Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Why bother with protein folding?

For those of you who use (or refer to) my textbooks, you may notice that I've been gradually adding more and more coverage of protein folding to most of them. My newest text (due out in March) adds a bit more to the story. Why bother?  Isn't that way more than beginning students need to know for an A&P course preparing students for health careers?

I submit that beginning A&P students should know a bit about protein folding.

Knowing the very basic principles of protein folding help students visualize the complex shape of proteins.  That, in turn, helps them understand that "it's all about shape" when trying to understand how proteins like enzymes, receptors, and most other proteins work—proteins that they'll encounter many times throughout their A&P course and beyond. 

Besides that, protein folding has become a key concept in understanding not only how the body functions, but how to intervene therapeutically in important diseases.  If a class of therapy based on protein folding is now being developed, a class of therapy that many of our students will likely encounter in their professions, don't we owe it to them to cover the basic ideas of protein folding? 

This latest idea was brought up at a recent meeting of the American Society of Cell Biology (ASCB).  You may want to read the article below, which briefly summarizes some current work being done in developing drugs that affect protein folding systems.  None of the specific  information in the article would be appropriate for A&P students to learn.  But reading it will give the A&P professor better insights about why the concept of protein folding is important for students to learn.  And it gives you a chance to say, "I was just reading about how scientists are now developing drugs based on protein folding . . . " to get their attention in class!

Want to know more?
Protein Folding and Disease: The Path from Bench to Bedside
V. Glaser
Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News 15 Jan 2012. Vol. 32, No. 2
[Brief, illustrated article that clearly summarizes some recent work in applying principles of protein folding to drug therapies.]
Protein folding animation
[Interesting Quicktime animation that shows a protein folding]

GCSF Protein Folding Illustration Movie
[Another animation, a bit more complex than the previous one.  Clearly shows different types of models used in most A&P textbooks.]

The Three-Dimensional Structure of Proteins
[Narrated animation showing four levels of protein structure, including visualization of protein folding.]