Breakthrough for peptide medication
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IMAGE: Cyclic hexapeptide in its bioactive form with the integrin-binding tripeptide sequence arginine-glycine-aspartic acid: Green spheres represent carbon atoms, red oxygen atoms, blue nitrogen atoms and white hydrogen atoms. Yellow spheres… view more 

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Credit: Michael Weinmueller / TUM

Peptides, short amino acid chains that control many functions in the human body, represent a billion-dollar market, also in the pharmaceutical industry. But, normally these medications must be injected. A research team led by the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has now determined how peptides can be designed so that they can be easily administered as a liquid or tablet.

Peptides are short chains of amino acids. In the human body, they control diverse functions as signaling molecules. Well-known examples include insulin, which comprises 51 amino acid building blocks and controls the metabolism of sugar, or cyclosporine, an eleven amino acid-peptide that has been proven to suppress organ rejection after transplants.

“Peptides are wonderfully well-suited as medication,” says Horst Kessler, Carl von Linde Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study at TU Munich. “The body already uses them as signaling molecules, and when they have done their job, they can be recycled by the body – no accumulation, no complicated detoxification.”

Worldwide, there are currently some 500

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