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Finally, a way to fix broken enzymes

I've been interested in Daria Mochly-Rosen's research into a mutation that messes up alcohol processing for personal reasons. If I imbibe more than a sip of spirits (really, just a sip!) I get slammed with a headache within the hour. I've been hoping she'll come up with a cure.
When I talked with her about her latest publication on the mutation, published online yesterday in Nature Structural Biology, she swept away my wine-tasting daydreams with the real news. The new study (registration required), done with Tom Hurley and colleagues at Indiana University, and Che-Hong Chen at Stanford, not only explains more about fixing the mutation, but reveals a way to fix broken enzymes. In this case, they use a small helper molecule that props up the enzyme's floppy bits.

That sounded pretty cool but I didn't realize how cool until Mochly-Rosen, MD, PhD, explained: Scientists have been trying to find a way to fix broken enzymes for decades. When enzymes don't work, the result is often illness. In fact, some of Mochly-Rosen's research suggests that people who lack normal activity of this alcohol-processing enzyme would be more prone to heart failure. Drugs that fix enzymes would be very, very useful.

But as for my hopes of becoming a wine connoisseur, I can forget about it. The mutation is largely restricted to people of Asian descent--and I'm not Asian. So any drug spin-off from her findings is unlikely to work on me.

More about the research is in today's Inside Stanford Medicine.

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