Bioportide peptides and CEM microwave technology combine to open up a new avenue in human contraception
16 Jan 2017
A novel bioactive cell-penetrating peptide with sperm-immobilising action has been produced using CEM’s microwave synthesis technology.
The capacity to produce novel peptides, with important physiological actions, is an exciting avenue for both research and drug development. One particularly fascinating prospect has been reported by the team of Professor John Howl at the University of Wolverhampton working in conjunction with IVF experts at Aveiro University in Portugal.
Professor Howl’s team is interested in a class of peptides that they have named bioportides: bioactive cell-penetrating peptides that can modulate cellular dynamics. The two teams together have developed a new approach that appears to make men temporarily infertile by inhibiting the ability of the sperm to swim, thereby making it impossible for the sperm to reach and then fertilise the egg.
Studies on both bovine and human sperm has shown that the action of the peptide is very rapid; the short chain of amino acids acts within minutes after addition to the sample, totally immobilising the sperm. This raises the possibility of producing an effective fast acting, but temporary, male contraceptive with important implications for family planning and community health.
In order to produce and test candidate peptides in such studies it is important to be able to reliably synthesise pure peptide samples of accurately known composition. This is why researchers at the University of Wolverhampton have been using instruments produced by CEM, leading innovators in microwave-based laboratory technology. Microwave synthesisers created something of a revolution in peptide synthesis when they cut the 3-hour cycle times of conventional methods to around 30 minutes.
Then with the Liberty Blue range of peptide synthesisers, as now used at Wolverhampton, CEM reduced synthesis times by another 80%, to around 4 minutes. It then became possible for chemists to make many peptides in less than an hour and even difficult to synthesise peptides, such as A-beta 1-42, could be prepared in hours not days. And all without any loss of purity, in fact, in many cases, with increased purity.
Bioportides and CEM’s Liberty Blue, as Professor Howl’s team have shown, appear to have an exciting future ahead of them, not just for reproductive endocrinology, but in other applications such as the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.