K-State researchers designing better drug to treat cystic fibrosis

MANHATTAN, KAN. -- John Tomich, a Kansas State University professor of biochemistry, spends much of his day thinking about how to design a better drug to treat cystic fibrosis.

A chronic and progressive disease, cystic fibrosis is usually diagnosed in childhood. It causes mucus to become thick, dry and sticky. The mucus builds up and clogs passages in the lungs, pancreas and other organs in the body.

There is no cure for cystic fibrosis. Management of the disease varies from person to person and generally focuses on treating respiratory and digestive problems to prevent infection and other complications. Treatment usually involves a combination of medications and home treatment methods, such as respiratory and nutritional therapies.

Tomich, along with colleagues Takeo Iwamoto, a K-State research assistant professor, and Shawnalea J. Frazier, senior in biochemistry, Haysville, have been working to understand how ions travel across cell membranes, specifically the anion part of sodium chloride.

Tomich presented a paper on the trios' findings, "Assessing The Contributions of H-Bonding Donors to Permeation Rates and Selectivity in Self-Assembling Peptides that Form Chloride Selective Pores," Aug. 28 at the Membrane Active, Synthetic Organic Compounds Symposium of the American Chemical Society's national meeting and exposition in Washington, D.C.

"What's kind of an honor about this is we were one of the few, purely biochemical research groups who are presenting in this symposium," Tomich said. "This is a section organized by organic chemists."

Tomich and his collaborators have used a series of single and double amino acid substitutions to modulate the activity of a channel forming peptide derived from the second transmembrane segment of the alpha subunit of the human spinal cord glycine receptor.

Tomich said chloride ions are hydrogen bond acceptors; consequently, it is hypothesized the hydroxyl function contributes

Contact: John Tomich
Kansas State University

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