How can understanding genes help develop medicines?

Some people are born with high levels of cholesterol, which clogs up the blood vessels and gives them a high risk of heart disease. In 1974 at Texas University, Nobel prizewinners Michael Brown and Joseph Goldstein identified the proteins that control cholesterol levels in the blood. This helped chemists to develop new medicines that lower blood cholesterol and protect patients from heart attack. Modern genetics research aims to take a short-cut to identifying proteins via their gene instructions.

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Joseph Goldstein (left) and Michael Brown (right) received the Nobel prize in 1985 for their work on cholesterol.

A cure for fragile bones?

Your skeleton is effectively replaced every seven years. But as you get older, bone is broken down more quickly than it is built up, causing osteoporosis (brittle bone disease) in some people. Scientists have identified a gene for a protein – cathepsin K – that destroys bone. Clinical trials are testing new medicines that could stop cathepsin K working, and so slow down osteoporosis.

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New medicines may soon be available to slow down osteoporosis.


Principal Funder:

Wellcome trust

Major Sponsors:

GlaxoSmithKline life technologies