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Published: 2020-02-04 13:10 | Updated: 2020-02-06 17:14

New thesis about understanding how spiders store their silk proteins and how this knowledge can be applied to produce proteins of medical relevance

Médoune Sarr, doctoral student at division of Neurogeriatrics, NVS, is ready to defend his thesis. Photo: Annika Clemes

Hi Médoune Sarr, PhD-student at the Division of Neurogeriatrics. On February 28 you will defend your thesis ”A star is born: Development of NT* as a biotechnological tool based on the mechanism of pH dependent dimerization of the spidroin N-terminal domain”, what's the main focus of the thesis?

Failure to produce soluble proteins in research and in the pharmaceutical industry may be a potential liability for health if the protein is to be used for medical applications. My thesis focuses on understanding how spiders store their silk proteins and how this knowledge can be applied to produce soluble and active proteins of medical relevance.

Which are the most important results?

We shed light on how spiders use the N-terminal (NT) domain of their silk proteins to manage their silk. We harnessed the biological role of NT to design the genetically engineered variant NT*, a tool intended for the production of therapeutically relevant proteins that have proven to be aggregation prone. With NT*, we also provide a tool to avoid some of the aggregation issues encountered in research conducted on amyloid forming proteins, which are associated with a set of diverse diseases.

How this new knowledge contributes to the improvement of people’s health?

NT* facilitates the production of proteins with therapeutic potential and may help to better understand the underlying mechanisms of amyloid-related diseases, e.g. Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson disease, for which no curative treatments have been found.

What´s in the future for you? Will you keep on conducting research?

I have a keen interest in spider silk and I would like to continue doing research in this field. Perhaps I will focus more on how to produce artificial spider silk in the next step of my career.

 

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Médoune Sarr PhD student