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animated proteins

How can you catch the imperceptible movements of proteins? Current laboratory techniques are not able to film them. Scientists can only imagine them. Bioinformatics provides calculation and visualisation methods that are able to predict the theoretical movements of proteins. These programs take into account constraints that derive from a protein’s shape, for instance, a little like a cartoon animator who has to imagine how a character moves depending on its morphology and the ground.

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designing drugs

By studying the shape of a protein and how it moves, researchers can design molecules that are then able to interact ‘perfectly’ with it. To what end? If a protein is involved in an illness, for example, such molecules can behave as drugs by preventing the protein from being active. These methods offer new perspectives in the manufacture of drugs or vaccines to fight against illnesses such as cancer, to name one.

Encounter of an immune cell with a cancer cell

When two cells move slowly towards one another, contact is made by way of proteins, which also have to move in order to interact. Cancer cells carry specific proteins on their surface that present a small fragment, a little like a signature (red ribbon). When a cancer cell binds to the “signature” protein found on the surface of the immune cell, it sets off an alarm and the cancerous cell is targeted for destruction.

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