Flower power may be answer to itchy problem

June 24, 2012

Sunflowers may hold the solution to a problem which gets under the skin of millions of Australians every year.

Skin conditions such as eczema, dermatitis, rosacea and the lesser-known Netherton Syndrome pose an itchy problem for many sufferers world-wide, but a group of researchers from Queensland University of Technology (QUT), in Brisbane Australia, are looking at ways to soothe the problem - with tiny proteins called peptides, found in sunflowers.

Simon de Veer, a PhD student and researcher for QUT's Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation (IHBI) said his team was working to develop novel inhibitors for three skin proteases - enzymes which play an important role in the skin's constant regeneration.

By engineering the peptide known as sunflower trypsin inhibitor (SFTI), and modifying its binding surface, researchers have designed inhibitors for three skin proteases, kallikrein-related peptidase (KLK) 5, 7 and 14.

Mr de Veer said it is these inhibitors that are the missing piece of the puzzle for sufferers of skin conditions.

"Proteases in the skin are primarily involved with shedding old cells from the skin's surface by breaking the connections which normally hold them together as part of a protective barrier," he said.

"This requires a balancing mechanism to maintain regular skin structure and thickness.

"Too much activity leaves the skin more permeable than usual, meaning it is open to allergens, infection and water loss."

The naturally occurring SFTI peptide is an effective inhibitor of a protease called trypsin, which resembles the kallikrein proteases in our skin.

"Our goal was to harness the built-in activity of SFTI and give the binding surface a bit of a facelift so it was better able to target skin proteases and help restore the skin to its original state."

Mr de Veer said the research he has been working on at QUT would be evaluated and extended upon during an eight-month fellowship with Professor Alain Hovnanian, one of the world's leading researchers in the field, at his laboratory at Hopital Necker in Paris.

The fellowship was funded by France's Rene Touraine Foundation, a non-profit European organisation focused on supporting dermatological research, while Mr de Veer's PhD research has received funding through the State Government's Smart Futures PhD Scholarship Program.

"Professor Hovnanian's research team has made countless, highly significant contributions to understanding the genetic, clinical and therapeutic aspects of skin disease," he said.

"The outcomes of our experiments are likely to provide new insight into how proteases contribute to skin pathology and will potentially lead to new atopic treatments for sufferers of skin disease."
-end-
Media contact: Alita Pashley, QUT media officer, 07 3138 1841 or alita.pashley@qut.edu.au

Queensland University of Technology

Related Proteases Articles from Brightsurf:

Bacilli and their enzymes show prospects for several applications
This publication is devoted to the des­cription of different microbial enzymes with prospects for practical application.

Rare congenital heart defect rescued by protease inhibition
A research team at the Greenwood Genetic Center (GGC) has successfully used small molecules to restore normal heart and valve development in an animal model for Mucolipidosis II (ML II), a rare genetic disorder.

Exhaled biomarkers can reveal lung disease
Using specialized nanoparticles, MIT engineers have developed a way to diagnose pneumonia or other lung diseases by analyzing the breath exhaled by the patient.

Mirror image tumor treatment
Our immune system ought to be able to recognize and kill tumor cells.

A bacterial toxin turning cells into swiss cheese
Researchers from Kanazawa University developed a novel tool to study how the innate immune system fights bacterial toxins.

Researchers identify 'hot spots' for developing lymphatic vessels
The development of the lymphatic vasculature is crucially dependent on one specific protein -- the growth factor VEGF-C.

Host cell proteases can process viral capsid proteins
It has long been suggested that a cell protease could take part in enterovirus infection.

Dynamic images show rhomboid protease in action
Rhomboid proteases are clinically relevant membrane proteins that play a key role in various diseases.

Biologists have studied enzymes that help wheat to fight fungi
Scientists from I.M. Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University together with their Russian colleagues studied reaction of wheat plants to damage caused by pathogenic fungi.

Queen's University researchers develop new test to detect disease and infection
Researchers at Queen's University Belfast have developed a highly innovative new enzyme biomarker test that has the potential to indicate diseases and bacterial contamination saving time, money and possibly lives.

Read More: Proteases News and Proteases Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.