New hope for infectious disease treatments

Professor Adam McCluskey, together with colleagues in Australia and Germany, has created two molecular compounds that inhibit the function of the protein clathrin.

Clathrin is responsible for the human body taking in ‘signalling molecules’, which stimulate cell growth and division, and spread infections.

The team has developed compounds that inhibit the function of clathrin, thereby preventing the body from taking in these molecules. Professor McCluskey said 70 per cent of all viruses used clathrin as a way to enter cells.

“This research opens up new approaches to treat conditions such as cancer and viruses including hepatitis C, Ebola and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

“Cancers such as brain tumours rely on these signalling molecules to divide cells and grow.

“Without the signalling molecules, the virus cannot enter cells, hijack them and spread infectious disease through the body.”

The research is a breakthrough for the treatment of medical conditions that rely on infectious cells dividing and multiplying through the body, as well as neurological disorders.

The team will now look at ways to refine the two molecular compounds and develop drugs that are safe for human use.

“A person diagnosed with an infectious illness could take a drug blocking clathrin and stop the illness from spreading,” Professor McCluskey said.

“The infected cell would then die.”

The research project was led by Professor Volker Haucke at Freie Universität in Berlin and is published in the latest issue of the prestigious science journal, Cell.

For interviews: Professor Adam McCluskey on 02 4921 6486.