A team led by biochemistry professor Felix Hausch of the TU Darmstadt is working on substances that are to help fighting three widespread diseases: depression, chronic pain and obesity.
In Germany, around four million people suffer from depression. And according to a study by the Deutsche Schmerzgesellschaft, the German Pain Society, as many as eight to 16 million people are affected by chronic pain. Nor is the situation any better when it comes to our weight: around one in six of us here is obese. Biochemically, there is a link between these three common diseases. Our body produces a protein molecule called FKBP51 that plays an important role both in energy metabolism and in depression and chronic pain.
Felix Hausch, since October 2016 Professor for Structure-Based Drug Discovery at the TU Darmstadt, believes this protein is an interesting point of attack for future medicines. “If you block FKBP51, then the tendency towards depression, obesity and chronic pain should decrease.” As the starting point for the development of inhibitors, Professor Hausch’s team opted for the already approved pharmaceutical substance Tacrolimus, a substance obtainable from bacteria that is known to bind to FKBP51, but also to similar proteins. The researchers changed this substance chemically so that it inhibits FKBP51 even more efficiently, but also only blocks this protein and not any of its relatives.