UAH Experiment Could Lead to Better Medicine with Fewer Side Effects

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - More effective antibiotic drugs with fewer dangerous side effects -- that's what a team of biologists from UAH is aiming for with an experiment headed to space.

It all starts with the growth of a special crystal and analysis of protein molecules.

They're contained inside a small box.

What comes from it could be the answers to better medical treatment for people.

"This is the core of drug design," said Dr. Joe Ng, a biology professor at UAH.

He and a team of colleagues are trying to grow a special crystal in space and put the experiment on the Spacex Three Rocket headed to the International Space Station.

The idea is to grow protein molecules and then disect them to identify what is causing medical problems for humans.

"If it's associated with any type of pathogenic function, then we're able to design things that may block its function or re-engineer it," said Ng.

He explained that it's necessary to grow the crystal in space, since there's no gravity to interfere with the molecules like there is on earth.

"It's like trying to build a house in the middle of a hurricane, as opposed to building a house on a very very nice calm day," said Ng.

The calmness of space is just what biologists need to get a one-millimeter crystal that could go a very long way in developing drugs that are more specific, with fewer side effects.

"If we can know the details of this, we can design targeted drugs that will inhibit those that are pathogenic and not that are human," he said.

UAH is partnering with Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

They're using a grant from the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space to pursue the experiment.