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Spider Silk Protein Can Alleviate Cancer Fighting Protein P53

The p53 protein in our body protects the human cells from cancer disease and is helpful for different types of cancer treatments. The issue with the p53 protein is that it breaks down fast in the cell. A solution to this problem was published in the journal Structure by researchers at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.

The researchers have discovered a new way of keeping the protein intact by adding a spider silk protein to p53. When the spider silk protein is added to p53, the following result is a protein which is more stable and can kill cancer cells effectively.

P53 is an important part of the human body's defense against cancer as it helps in finding out and stopping the genetic mutations, which can cause cancer. If a cell is not having functional p53, it fast becomes a cancer cell that begins to divide in an uncontrollable manner.

Commenting on the findings, the study's last author Michael Landreh, researcher at the Department of Microbiology, Tumor and Cell Biology, Karolinska Institutet said, "The problem is that cells only make small amounts of p53 and then quickly break it down as it is a very large and disordered protein. We've been inspired by how nature creates stable proteins and have used spider silk protein to stabilize p53. Spider silk consists of long chains of highly stable proteins, and is one of nature's strongest polymers."

In a collaborative project with Jan Johansson and Anna Rising at KI's Department of Biosciences and Nutrition, who use spider silk in their research, the researchers kept a small section of a synthetic spider silk protein onto the human p53 protein. When it came in contact with the cells, they found that the cells started to produce it in large quantities. The new protein also proved to be more stable than the earlier p53 and capable of killing cancer cells. Using electron microscopy, computer simulations, and mass spectrometry, the researchers were able to prove that the most likely reason for this was that the spider silk part managed to give structure to p53's disordered sections.

Next, the researchers plan to understand the protein's structure in detail and know how its different parts work together to prevent cancer. They also plan to understand how the cells are affected by the new potent p53 protein and how well they tolerate its spider-silk portions.

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