COLUMBIA 8/17/12 (Beat Byte) -- A University of Missouri researcher may have a new way to fix the body's protein factories -- otherwise known as ribosomes -- after viruses such as HIV and tumor cells invade and disrupt them.
Ribosomes move in a particular pattern, gathering information to determine which proteins it should create, said Peter Cornish, a professor of biochemistry in the Mizzou School of Medicine. "Sometimes, when certain viruses enter the body, this movement is disrupted."
Cornish is determining how to get ribosomes back on track. A drug, for instance, could halt replication of viruses that disrupt ribosomes. Or the disrupted ribosome protein factory could be shut down so that it stops producing proteins that help viruses and other disease-causing entities reproduce.
"Our bodies’ natural defenses are constantly working to keep us healthy," Cornish said. "We only get sick when viruses or bacteria replicate enough to overwhelm our defenses. If we can determine how to stop them from replicating, the body’s defenses can take over and get rid of the invaders naturally."
Cornish’s research may also fight cancer. As cancer cells grow, they need proteins. A drug could stall the ribosome from producing proteins, slowing or killing the cancer.
Cornish was recently recognized as a 2012 Pew Scholar in Biomedical Sciences, one of the field's 22 most promising investigators.