A major reason drugs have side effects, is that once ingested they are absorbed by the entire body, rather than just the organ or biochemical mechanism that’s being targeted. Being able to activate drugs precisely where needed can make them fundamentally safer while improving effectiveness.
A team of scientists from a number of Spanish research institutions have developed a pair of peptides that change shape in a predictable way when illuminated with light. The peptides work together to control the passage of molecules through cell membranes, and because they’re light activated, this behavior can be finely controlled both in time and space. The researchers believe that this technology will help study live cell behavior and maybe one day lead to a future where lasers are used to help direct medicines to their targets on the skin, eyes, and other external parts of the body.
From the study abstract:
Photoswitchable inhibitors of protein–protein interactions were applied to photoregulate clathrin-mediated endocytosis (CME) in living cells. Traffic light (TL) peptides acting as “stop” and “go” signals for membrane traffic can be used to dissect the role of CME in receptor internalization and in cell growth, division, and differentiation.