Structural studies of clinically-relevant protein-carbohydrate interactions

Thanks to new scientific methods, including use of high-speed computers, the search for ways to diagnose, treat and cure disease has changed greatly in the last 50 years. While chance discoveries are still important, new technology allows researchers to systematically probe the molecular nature of disease-causing organisms and the medicines being developed to treat them. X-ray crystallography is a technique to determine the three-dimensional structure of crystallized molecules. Dr. Stephen Evans is using the technique to study the interactions between proteins (such as antibodies and enzymes) with carbohydrates to learn about the atomic structure of these molecules. In one project Dr. Evans is investigating the antibodies responsible for inherited immunity to learn how the body reacts to new and emerging diseases. In another project he is investigating how a protein molecule can mimic a carbohydrate and be used to vaccinate patients against their own cancer. He is also examining how enzymes can be used to make new carbohydrates that can, in turn, be used as new medicines. Finally, Dr. Evans is developing a new version of his SETOR molecular graphics software that will enable researchers to reduce complicated molecular structures to simplified illustrations.