Biomedical Engineering, “Eat Your Broccoli” and Cancer

As a product development engineer you have to keep your eyes and ears open for new ideas.  Sometimes they come from areas outside your professional training. In that vein after years of reading that broccoli and cruciferous vegetables are good for keeping cancer at bay researchers appear to have identified how broccoli helps induce death ( apoptosis ) in cancer cells.    The vegetable contains isothiocyanates which specifically bind with the mutant p53 which has been suspected to contribute to about half the known cancers.    The chemical binds with mutant p53 and inactivates it by changing its tertiary conformation.  The binding is very selective and does not appear to impact the normal or aka as wild p53.   Phenethyl isothiocyanate is particularly effective.  The research identifying p53 as a potential target for cancer fighting drugs is characterized as novel by the authors of the study.

The idea that an organic molecule as simple as glucaraphanin could denature a protein by binding could be the type of insight that would inspire similar approaches for prevention or cure to other enzyme sensitive diseases but what about thinking outside the box.  How about a single use protein based sensor which changes conformation upon contact with its target?  Or how about a security system that uses biochemicals found in your breath or on your skin as the “key”.

Glucoraphanin

Selective Depletion of Mutant p53 by Cancer Chemopreventive Isothiocyanates and Their Structure−Activity Relationships

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