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Researchers Engineering Protein To Prevent Brain Damage From Toxic Agents

Update Date: Jul 31, 2014 11:29 AM EDT

Researchers are working on an approach that would prevent brain damage in civilians and military troops exposed to poisonous chemicals. 

The approach involves advancing the stability of a protein that neutralizes toxins in common pesticides and chemical weapons. 

The process has been developed NYU School of Engineering Associate Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering Jin Kim Montclare, along with Richard Bonneau, an associate professor in NYU's Department of Biology and a member of the computer science faculty at NYU's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences.

The process centers on the proteins called phosphotriesterases. Phosphotriesterases have the unique capability of degrading chemicals in a class known as organophosphates, which are found in everything from industrial pesticides to the sarin gas used in chemical warfare.

"Organophosphates pose tremendous danger to people and wildlife, and sadly it's not unusual for humans to come into contact with these compounds, whether through exposure to pesticide or an intentional chemical warfare attack," explained Montclare. "We've known that phosphotriesterases had the power to detoxify these nerve agents, but they were far too fragile to be used therapeutically," she said.

The study has been published in the journal ChemBioChem

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