STEM telegraph 2014

The Telegraph recently held a competition in the UK for any undergraduates to proposed innovative ideas which would benefit society in five areas of STEM. These areas of STEM consisted of automation, pharmaceuticals, environment, construction and defence. Unfortunately my entry did not make it to the final stages of the competition but I still want to share my idea.

I submitted an entry for the pharmaceutical area where I proposed that currently many forms of treatments involve excessive concentrations of a desired drug where only a small amount is delivered to the target tissue/organ. Two mechanisms to overcome are the bioavailability and distribution of a drug. One solution to this problem is the production and self-assembly of synthetic receptors on the target tissue/organ.

The solution I provided was based on work with synthetic receptors by Peterson (2005). The work was aiming to activate internal pathways which may induce apoptosis, endocytosis or other cellular events which may be beneficial in treatments of a variety of disorders. As mention briefly in the proposal, the method would use self-assembling building blocks to form the receptors and in particular exploit genetic abnormalities which may occur in the 3D structure of the receptors.

In the first diagram, the normal drug cannot distinguish between a healthy receptor (A) and the target receptor (B). The idea, as shown in (C), is the use of self-assembly only occurring around the receptor with the abnormality in the receptor structure which allows for specific targeting. The second diagram shows the use of two receptors which may not appear together on the same tissue. This exploits the expression of the two receptors by forming blocks around both receptors and creating a new receptor in the middle which could be used as a possible target for therapy.

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Admittedly, I realise there are a lot of limitations in the proposal with developments into self-assembly only beginning but one day this may prove to be a possible route of treatment if not to act as a biomarker, to stimulate an immune response on the target tissue or aid in endocytosis for selective drug treatments.


My proposal and solution can be viewed here: Synthetic Receptors

I would like to congratulate those who have proceeded to the final stages of the competition and to wish them good luck.



Peterson, B.R. (2005) Synthetic mimics of mammalian cell surface receptors: prosthetic molecules that augment living cells. Organic & Biomolecular Chemistry, 3(20), pp. 3607-3612.



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