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Scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute have identified a novel synthetic activator of a pair of proteins that belong to a protein family playing key roles in human metabolism and immune function. The discovery could provide new and potentially more effective therapeutic approaches to diseases ranging from diabetes to osteoporosis.

The study was published in the November issue (Volume 5, Issue 11) of the journal ACS Chemical Biology.

“This new compound is particularly important because it works in vivo, and it is selective for certain receptors,” said Tom Burris, a professor in the Department of Molecular Therapeutics at Scripps Florida who led the study. “These two properties give it significant potential as a possible therapeutic compound.”

The new discovery represents the very first synthetic ligand (binding partner) that functions as an agonist (activator) of retinoid-related orphan (ROR) nuclear receptor. Nuclear receptors are protein molecules that mediate hormone activity inside the cell; they have been implicated in the progress of a number of cancers, and have also become drug development targets for diseases including type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, and metabolic syndrome.

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