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CIC bioGUNE Centre inaugurates first Structural Biology Unit in the State
The Cooperative Centre for Research, CIC bioGUNE, has inaugurated the Structural Biology platform, unique in the State and, at a European level, a state-of-the-art installation.
Fitted with the most up-to-date Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, Electron Microscopy and X-Ray Diffraction equipment, the platform will be available to the scientific community in order to stimulate the use of the most up-to-date techniques in structural biology amongst researchers and enterprises in the Basque Country.
Whether at a national or a European level, there is no other research centre which integrates these three techniques under the same roof.
The installations are located at the CIC bioGUNE research centre at the Bizkaia Technological Park in Derio.
Structural biology is an area of research the aim of which is to determine the structure of macromolecules and of supramolecular complexes. The function of proteins is linked to their structure and, knowing their folding pattern provides transcendental information on the way in which their molecular role develops. The identification of therapeutic targets, their action mechanisms, the design of pharmaceutical drugs, the understanding of intracellular interactions, as well as the prevention or treatment of numerous illnesses, require knowledge of the three-dimensional structure of proteins and other molecular complexes.
In this respect, the Structural Biology Unit generally aims to investigate the structure of and interactions that occur between biological macromolecules with the objective of understanding how chemical reactions central to life develop and how their malfunctioning can give rise to the appearance of relevant pathologies. Detailed knowledge of molecular interactions open new paths to the development of effective therapies.
The Structural Biology Unit will have 50 researchers directly and in the order of 100 indirectly involved in shared, international projects. The funding of the Unit has been promoted by the Basque Government, through its Department of Industry, Trade and Tourism, and also financed by the Bizkaia Provincial Government, the Basque Technological Parks´ Network and the European FEDER funds. Also various aid packages from the Spanish State and the European Union have been availed of.
The Structural Biology Unit will be, together with the Proteomic platform, a key infrastructure at CIC bioGUNE. In fact, a large number of the projects being undertaken at the Centre require the infrastructure and equipment this Unit possesses. Moreover, its creation improves research possibilities for all those others within the Basque R+D+i network. Also, it will boost the participation of foreign research groups such as private bodies in the health sector.
The Structural Biology Unit will have three laboratories specialised in techniques of structural resolution: Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, Electron Cryomicroscopy and X-Ray Diffraction. There is no other centre, within the State, that integrates the three laboratories in the same installations.
Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) determines three-dimensional structures and the interactions of bio-macromolecules. The NMR spectroscope, moreover, provides highly valuable dynamic information and is specially suitable in the study of structural variations due to changes in the environment such as variations in temperature or pH and the presence of metallic ions, etc. NMR is an excellent tool for carrying out scans to reveal the degree of folding of proteins. The RMN equipment available in this Unit is an 800 MHz spectrometer and another of 600 MHz. The first has a greater signal dispersion sensitivity in order to detect phenomena arising in strong magnetic fields.
Electron Microscopy is a highly flexible method for structural analysis which enables the study of molecules over a very wide range of resolutions. Electron Cryomicroscopy, together with image processing techniques, has enables the use of electron microscopes in the molecular domain.
X-Ray Crystallography is currently the most powerful analytical tool for determining atomic structure. This technique employs X-Rays in order to determine the atomic order in a crystalline sample. It can be applied to all types of macromolecules without any limit to size and, moreover, the data therefrom can be integrated into large-aggregate functional models analysed using Electron Microscopy.
CIC bioGUNE - scientific state of the art in Euskadi
The Structural Biology Unit, as well as CIC bioGUNE overall, falls within the strategic remit of bioBASK 2010 – aiming to boost the generation and development of knowledge in order to facilitate business advances in the biosciences sector. To this end, the policy is to reinforce and enhance research capacity, to establish scientific-technological advances and to put co-operative research centres into operation.
Within this strategic line in January 2005 CIC bioGUNE was inaugurated, a co-operative research centre dedicated mainly to biosciences and, within these, the health sector. Here, high social impact illnesses such as cancer are studied, as well as their prevention, their diagnosis and the identification of pharmaceutical drugs for dedicated therapies.
The principal mission of CIC bioGUNE is the undertaking of basic research of excellence at an international level, targeting strategic objectives of global interest while not forgetting the needs of the biotechnology industry in the Basque Country.
At CIC bioGUNE they are striving to make the research industry in the Basque Country more international, incorporating foreign researchers at all levels and strengthening this international cooperation, given that excellence today is defined in global terms.
CIC bioGUNE has somewhat more than 100 researchers from more than a dozen countries.
In 2005 and 2006 CIC bioGUNE launched technological platforms for genomics, proteomics, metabolics and animal experiment stations; in 2007 it will be working on the genic silencing platform.
CIC bioGUNE is currently taking part in important, international-level projects such as HUPO (Human Proteome Organisation) the aim of which is to carry out the analysis of the proteome, i.e. to know precisely the role carried out by each one of the proteins.
CIC bioGUNE is the scientific body that is leading the HUPO work at the level of the State (of Spain) and, at the same time it is actively participating in the Human Liver Proteome Project (HLPP), an international research project on the proteins of the liver, within the framework of HUPO, involving a network of 17 scientific, biotechnological, centres and hospitals such as the Clínic de Barcelona and the Príncipe de Asturias hospital in Madrid, and which incorporates all the proteomic services within the Spanish State. This Spanish node is known as Proteored.
It is also participating in the HEPADIP project, representing the first attempt, at a European level, to undertake a research project on the liver and adipose tissue. In this respect, the most important project on Metabolic Syndrome financed by the EU has a budget of 12 million euros for the next five years.
The HEPADIP project consortium is made up of 26 members – belonging to 11 European countries -, 20 of the members being academic institutions and six small or medium-sized biotechnological businesses. The project is organised along lines of research wherein studies are being carried out on the biology of adipose tissue and the liver, on the integrated function of adipose tissue and the liver in the human organism, and on the genetics and clinical profile of metabolic syndrome in well-defined populations.
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