Antitumour and antiviral agents for future therapies 08. Mar. 2024

The Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry at the Faculty of Pharmacy of the University of Debrecen (DE GYTK) has been working on the synthetic modification of nucleosides for more than ten years, and five years ago they started to investigate the so-called morpholin ring nucleoside analogues under the supervision of Anikó Borbás, Associate Dean and Head of the Department. The professor explained to that nucleoside analogue molecules, which are synthetically modified versions of natural nucleosides, are vital drugs in the treatment of cancers, viral infections and various hereditary diseases.

- If we somehow disrupt the biosynthesis of nucleic acids, we stop viruses and tumour cells from multiplying. This can be done in many different ways, for example by introducing a chemically modified nucleoside into the cell that binds to the nucleic acid being built, but also stops the nucleic acid from building itself," said the deputy dean.

He also stressed that viruses and cancer cells, like bacteria, can develop resistance to drugs, so there is a constant need to develop new drugs that are effective against resistant viruses and tumour types.

Research at the DE GYTK uses two different approaches to develop nucleoside analogues.

- One is the attachment of fluorine atoms to the nucleoside, the other is the replacement of the five-membered furanose sugar ring of the nucleoside with a six-membered morpholine ring. Separately, these modifications are well known and used in medicine, with many fluorine-containing nucleoside analogue drugs used in antiviral and anticancer therapies,  and morpholin ring nucleoside analogues being used as the basic drugs for hereditary muscular atrophy diseases such as Duchenne muscular atrophy. It is important to point out that the combination of the two types of chemical modifications had not  been used before being used by the research team at the University of Debrecen," the Deputy Dean shared the results.

Anikó Borbás added that they are in the very first phase of basic drug discovery, they have developed and published new synthetic processes which can be used in the future not only by UD specialists, but also by other research groups in drug development.

And what does the future hold for nucleoside analogue research? Anikó Borbás said that the next step will be the impact assessment of the compounds, which will be carried out in the framework of national and foreign collaborations.Hardships can be expected along the way, as the development of biologically active molecules into drugs is very time-consuming and costly, and the vast majority of effective molecules will never become drugs. However, if successful, the molecules produced could be used in antiviral and anticancer therapies, as well as in the treatment of hereditary muscular dystrophy.
The scientific paper on the discovery was published in Chemistry - A European Journal and can be read in English by clicking here. The publication was selected as one of the January flagship publications of the Department of Chemical Sciences of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

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