16 May 2006

Decoding Cell Signaling: Struggle and Serendipity

In 1965, soil samples being screened for useful antibiotic candidates serendipitously yielded a microorganism that produced rapamycin. Although rapamycin was not a particularly good antibiotic, it did display interesting effects on yeast, insect larvae, and mammalian cells. Through careful research, the target of rapamycin inside the mammalian cell was located, and labeled mTOR (mammalian Target of Rapamycin). Due to its effect on mTOR, rapamycin is being investigated for a broad range of therapies.

Recent research is zeroing in on mTOR as a useful target for therapies for Glioma and other cancers.

Other recent research points to mTOR as a key to treating obesity.

mTor is key to the initiation of protein synthesis, and the initiation of cell cycling and division. The process of muscular hypertrophy utilises mTOR, both in skeletal muscle and smooth muscle. This places mTOR at the center of possible treatments for vascular stenosis due to smooth muscle hypertrophy.

It is the sheer complexity of the cell signaling pathways that causes potentially revolutionary research to proceed at a snail's pace. It is important that the therapeutic agent target only those molecules that achieve a useful result. Achieving the proper level of specificity involves both struggle and serendipity.

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