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Computer models aid researchers to understand cell interactions

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Curtin University researchers are using computer models to better understand how molecules in our cells interact with each other and the role they play in cancer and viral infections.

Professor Ricardo Mancera, Head of the Biomolecular Modelling Group at the Western Australian Biomedical Research Institute, part of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Curtin University, is studying interactions between complex carbohydrates and cell receptors and how they may be controlled to alter strength and selectivity.

Professor Mancera said complex carbohydrates, or sugar molecules, present in our cells mediate a lot of physiological phenomena.

“We are interested in processes that happen in our immune system such as inflammation and allergies, as well as cancer and viral infections,” Professor Mancera said.

The researchers are working to establish the relationship between chemical structure and function to understand how these molecules operate and bind to receptors.

“Once you have naturally-occurring molecules with specific physiological roles, then you can try to make small molecule mimics that can be synthesised in the laboratory and have a similar, therapeutic role,” he said.

“Using high performance computer modelling, we can predict subtle changes to their chemical structures that may make these mimics more active or more selective.”

Ultimately, this type of research can lead to a greater understanding of cell interactions at the molecular level and has the potential for drug discovery against a range of inflammatory and allergic diseases, cancer, and parasitic and viral infections.

Notes to Editor:

The Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute Biomedical Sciences precinct

The $25 million refurbishment will provide the Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute (CHIRI) with state-of-the-art research, teaching and learning facilities. Opening in 2012, the redevelopment centralises biomedical research on Curtin’s Bentley Campus. It will also provide a new pharmacy simulation laboratory, offices, teaching and student common areas. The building is a key element of Curtin University’s commitment and vision to rate as one of the top 20 universities in Asia by 2020.


Teresa Belcher/Kristy Jones, Public Relations, Curtin University
Tel: 08 9266 9085; Mobile: 402 517 300 Email: /

Ricardo Mancera, Professor, Biomolecular Modelling Group, School of Pharmacy and School of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences
Tel: 08 9266 1017; Email


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