New Mexico Supercomputing Challenge

Using a Concentrated Heat System to Shock p53 Protein to Direct Cancer Cells into Apoptosis

Team: 91

School: Monte del Sol

Area of Science: Biochemistry

Interim: Problem
How can using nanorobots and concentrated heat affect the tertiary structure of the p53 protein and how can it affect the apoptosis rate of cancer cells?

The p53 gene is one of the tumor suppressing genes, whose main function is to regulate the cells cycle . P53 is the intrinsic pathway to command the cell to go through apoptosis (death or destruction of a cell). The p53 gene activates BAX ( another protein), which goes to the mitochondria and releases cytosome-c. Cytosome-c then activates caspase 9, which destroys the proteins in the cell and destroys the cell. When the p53 gene is mutated, there is no command sent for the cell to go through apoptosis. The cell then becomes cancerous and begins to divide uncontrollably and create tumors.

The p53 gene will respond differently to different concentrated heat temperatures. When a mutation occurs in the p53 protein ,cancer cells likely develop. We are going to use nanorobots to detect and destroy cancer cells using concentrated heat. The nanorobots will do this by “fixing” the p53 protein so it can send out a signal to destroy the cell. In our model we are going to be modeling adenocarcinoma, which is a type of non-small lung cancer. Adenocarcinoma is about 40% of lung cancers that both smokers and non -smokers can get. Non-small cell cancer doesn’t respond well to chemotherapy or radiation therapy, so we are going to try concentrated heat and nanorobots.

We will design our own nanorobot that will be used in our NetLogo model. The nanorobot will be smaller than a cell and be injected into the body. The nanorobot will be able to detect cancer cells, while not attacking healthy cells, go against the flow of blood, and be able to obey commands sent from an outside computer. The nanorobot will have a needle in its body that, when it detects a cancer cell, will transfer heat to the cell. The heat will shock the p53 protein, making the protein send a signal out to destroy the cell. We will use the specific heat equation in order to determine if certain temperatures will affect the outside environment.

We are going to use a portion of the p53 protein or a reference protein to figure out the reaction of different heat temperatures on different bonds. The model will show how certain bonds can be fixed or broken by reaching the temperature that affects the bonds in tertiary structure of proteins. Based on the segment of the p53 protein, a prediction will be made on what temperature can be used in order to reverse the denatured process of the protein. Thus, the p53 protein will send the signal and destroy the cancer cell. The program will also show how the nanorobots will affect the cancer cells on the cellular level. The nanorobots will use a needle to penetrate the cell and send heat into the p53 protein to fix the mutation. The cancer cell will be destroyed once the p53 protein is momentarily fixed and sends the signal to send the cell into apoptosis.

Progress to Date
We have a community of epithelial cells along the outer portion of the lung that have a probability of one epithelial cell having a mutation and becoming cancerous. Within this community of cells, the randomly mutated one, when colliding with a healthy cell, kills it. This is how we show the cancer spreading. When running, our program shows that as the cancer progresses from stage to stage, the amount of cells being produced in mitosis increases more rapidly. This was done by telling the program, if the age of the cancer cell is of a certain age, tell the certain cell to hatch a certain amount of offspring. The normal epithelial cells only reproduce when one of the initial 49 is killed off. Then, once the cancer reaches stage three, the normal epithelial cells stop reproducing and the cancer starts to take over.

Expected results
We expect to have a nanorobot created and a heat temperature that affects p53 function. The non-small cancer cells should go through apoptosis when the p53 gene is activated. The nanorobots will distinguish between cancer cells and non-cancer cells and be able to have commands sent to them from the outside. We will also have another computer program created that shows what happens to the tertiary structure of the mutated p53 protein inside the cancer cells when different heat intensities are applied.


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Mentor: Paige Prescott

Team Members:

  Katelynn James
  Meghan Hill

Sponsoring Teacher: Rhonda Ward

Mail the entire Team

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