Zurich – Researchers in Zurich have developed a peptide that is able to detect the tensional state of tissue fibres. It could open the door to new research approaches in medicine and pharmacology.

Bacteria are able to attach themselves to tissue fibres with the aid of what’s known as a nano-adhesive. When the tissue fibres are stretched to a certain tensional state, the bacterial nano-adhesive detaches, as has been demonstrated simulations conducted by researchers at the Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich. The researchers have now developed a nanosensor out of a bacterial peptide that is able to detect the tensional state of tissue fibres.

Such a peptide could be used in both therapy and diagnostics, explains ETH Zurich. For instance, the researchers hope that the peptides could serve as diagnostic markers of tumour tissues and other degenerative diseases. The peptides could also be used for radiation therapy or to deliver active pharmaceutical ingredients to a diseased site. 

A major advantage of peptides is that they are much smaller than nanoparticles and antibodies. “These little molecules can therefore penetrate much better and deeper into dense tumour tissue,” explained Viola Vogel, a professor at ETH Zurich.

Vogel was conferred an Einstein Professorship from the renowned Charité university hospital in Berlin for her novel research approach in the quest for new methods of diagnostics and therapy. Along with other grants, Vogel is now in a position to fund two positions, making it possible to combine the new technique with clinical research. In cooperation with the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), Vogel also intends to investigate which types of tissues and diseases can be best targeted by the peptide.

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