London: University of Southampton biological scientists are leading a major research project aimed at making drugs more effective.They are investigating a group of proteins called `multidrug transporters`, which remove unwanted and toxic material from cells. Normally these proteins protect cells from toxins, but multidrug transporters also prevent anticancer drugs from killing cancer cells, particularly since the amount of these proteins is increased in cancer cells when they encounter such drugs. Related proteins also remove antibiotics from bacteria and remove herbicides from the plant cells of weeds leading to herbicide resistant weeds.All cells are surrounded by a membrane made of molecules called lipids, which forms a barrier that prevents the movement of many important biological molecules into and out of the cell. Embedded in this barrier are proteins that provide the cell with the ability to take in nutrients and remove waste and toxic molecules.Dr Malcolm East, a Reader in Biochemistry, who is leading the research with Dr Howard Barton, a Reader in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, says: "Besides ejecting waste material, cells also remove drugs, which make them less effective as treatments. We believe that a particular group of lipids, called anionic lipids, within cell membranes play a role in controlling the biological function of certain membrane proteins. We want to know how lipids interact with proteins and how that affects their ability to transport drugs.
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