Keep Your Proteins in Shape

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Proteins are important for building muscles, but what else should you know about them? How do you keep them healthy?

Your DNA creates approximately 20,000 different proteins in your body. Each protein type is made up of combinations and sequences from the 20 standard amino acids. A single chain typically uses between 100 and 1000 amino acids, then folds into a unique 3D protein shape.

Protein Shape

To keep working correctly, each protein needs to keep its specific shape. Proteins need specific conditions, like the right temperature, amount of water, or amount of salt, to keep that shape. If they experience conditions outside of that, they may break, or denature.

When proper protein folding is disrupted or unhealthy proteins are created, diseases can occur. To create treatments for these illnesses, scientists are exploring the intricacies of protein folding. There are multiple recent endeavors to predict protein folding shape from an amino acid chain sequence. They include:

  • Fold It – a crowdsourced game to have humans analyze protein chains and compete to figure out the most likely folding pattern.
  • AlphaFold 2, from Google’s DeepMind project, predicts at a much higher level of accuracy than humans and other software programs. In 2020, AlphaFold 2 achieved the best results for 88 out of 97 target proteins on the biennial Critical Assessment of Techniques for Protein Structure Prediction (CASP) test.
  • I-TASSER and HHpred – AlphaFold competitors that also do well on CASP.

However, AlphaFold and other competing protein structure prediction software programs are not yet competent in areas such as evaluating the folding of protein complexes where multiple proteins join together for a common function. There is still considerable room for improvement.

8 Leading-Edge Protein Companies

Technological advances for understanding proteins have created significant commercial momentum for earlier disease detection, better prognoses and enhanced treatment methods to improve quality of life and longevity. Proteins in our blood can confirm an illness months or years before symptoms, when many diseases are still curable. Eight leading-edge companies focused on protein analysis and therapies include:

  • Avalon GloboCare (NASDAQ: AVCO) – partnered with the MIT Media laboratory to invent QTY Code, a protein-design platform that can turn water-insoluble transmembrane receptor proteins into water-soluble proteins, enabling their use in drug development. This program has generated a series of decoy receptors to soak up excess chemokines and cytokines produced during potentially fatal cytokine storms. These cytokine storms can occur in patients with COVID-19 and in cancer patients being treated with CAR T-cell therapy. Additionally, Avalon has integrated QTY Code with AlphaFold 2 for expedited discovery.
  • C4 Therapeutics (Nasdaq: CCCC) – is creating targeted protein degradation oncology drugs in partnerships with Biogen, Calico Labs and Roche.
  • Kymera Therapeutics (Nasdaq: KYMR) – is using advanced targeted protein degradation to deliver medicines to treat many types of cancer. Kymera has a new development candidate, KT-253, a first-in-class MDM2 degrader, which they believe can become the best-in-class p53 stabilizer for a wide variety of solid and liquid tumors. P53 is a tumor-suppressing protein, which when damaged, cannot stop cells from becoming cancerous. Damage to p53 has been found in about half of human cancers (along with damage to other genes).
  • Quanterix (Nasdaq: QTRX) – produces accurate and ultra-sensitive detailed protein biomarker detection and measurement for a variety of therapeutics. 
  • Quantum-SI (Nasdaq: QSI) – provides a rapid protein-sequencing platform powered by semiconductor technology.
  • Seer Proteomics (Nasdaq: SEER) – combines proprietary engineered nanoparticles with its Proteograph product suite of automation instruments and software for robust proteomic profiling.
  • SomaLogic (Nasdaq: SLGC) – measures up to 7,000 proteins simultaneously for patient diagnostics. Also, provides a personalized scan to determine cardiac health risk, testing for 9 dangerous proteins associated with heart attacks.

9 Essential Proteins; Types and Functions

Proteins perform nine essential functions in your body. They:

  1. Grow and maintain tissues – People recovering from an injury or surgery, older adults and athletes require more protein than average. 
  2. Catalyze reactions for metabolism – Proteolytic enzymes aid the biochemical reactions necessary for energy production, digestion, blood clotting and muscle contraction.
  3. Communicate messages between cells, tissues and organs – Hormones such as steroids, amines and peptides are chemical messengers transmitting signals to stimulate bodily functions. For example, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+), a coenzyme, is the main messenger to request a cell’s energy needs from its mitochondria. Of note, NAD+ levels decline with age, which is why they’ve become a popular supplement.
  4. Provide structure – fibrous proteins such as keratin, collagen and elastin form the connective framework of body parts such as hair, nails, skin, bones, tendons, ligaments, lungs and arteries.
  5. Maintain the proper human pH of 7.4 – protein regulates the concentrations of acids and bases in your blood and other bodily fluids.
  6. Regulate body process to maintain fluid balance – albumin and globulin in your blood attract and retain water.
  7. Fight infection – proteins form antibodies against bacteria and viruses.
  8. Transport and store nutrients – Transport proteins carry substances throughout your bloodstream and into, out-of and within your cells. Substances transported by these proteins include nutrients like vitamins or minerals, blood sugar, cholesterol and oxygen.
  9. Provide emergency energy – if energy production from carbohydrates and fat is not enough, your body converts skeletal muscle protein into energy. 

Protein Consumption

You produce 11 out of the 20 amino acids naturally. You need to obtain nine more from what you eat, which is why high-protein foods are essential to your diet.

When you eat protein, your body breaks it down into its composite amino acids which your body then uses to assemble your preferred proteins. It is important to make sure your diet provides all 20 amino acids. Here’s a useful guide to high protein foods which provide particularly good sources of aminos. Examples include eggs (all 20!), turkey, mushrooms (17), fish, beans, legumes and rather surprisingly, quinoa.

Do you have any idea how much protein you consume on an average day? 

According to the Dietary Reference Intake report for macronutrients, a sedentary adult should consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound. That means that the average sedentary man should eat about 56 grams of protein per day, and the average woman should eat about 46 grams. Of note, Keep Health does not recommend being sedentary!

How do you feel when you eat a meal or a snack without protein in it? 

Probably not too well. Your body is more likely to feel good and perform better when you eat snacks and meals with a balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates. 

The Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range, or AMDR, is a widely accepted source for macronutrient recommendations. For adult males and females age 19 and up, their ranges are:

  • 10 to 35 percent of your daily calories from protein
  • 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories from carbohydrates
  • 20 to 35 percent of your total calories from fat

Rewarding Conclusion

This concludes today’s article on the shape of your proteins. As your reward for reading and taking care of your health, don’t miss watching this phenomenal three minute Inner Life of a Cell video from Harvard University and XVIVO productions or the eight-minute narrated version with good explanations of what is happening. You’ll get to see your amazing proteins in action, including transport proteins at the 1:14 mark. The rest are fantastic too. Your body is unbelievably cool, another reason to keep it in shape and healthy!

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