Newswise — A breakthrough discovery of the structure of water has led a University of Missouri-Columbia research team to develop a new drug for the treatment of Wilson's Disease, a liver disorder. Kattesh Katti, MU professor of radiology and a senior research scientist at the MU Research Reactor, said animal trials of the drug "MU-TAM" have been successful and he expects human trials to follow after obtaining an industrial sponsor for the pharmaceutical.

Typically, water forms small ring structures with six or eight sets of water molecules. Working with Raghu Kannan, MU research assistant professor of radiology, the researchers found structural evidence for a large water ring structure with 18 sets of water molecules when water was mixed with the experimental pharmaceutical. After further testing, the researchers discovered MU-TAM was an amphiphile, a molecule with both hydrophobic, or water repelling, and hydrophilic, or water loving, qualities.

In patients with Wilson's Disease, the liver is unable to rid itself of excess copper. Katti says too much copper can produce "free radicals" in the body that attack the patient's DNA, protein and tissue. MU-TAM's amphiphile attributes help the body fight Wilson's Disease directly.

"The hydrophobic portion of this drug delivers the drug to the liver to rid it of the excess copper," Katti said. "The water loving, or hydrophilic portion, then carries excess copper out of the liver through the urine. The cleansing properties of MU-TAM will have important implications in the treatment of various other diseases that affect the liver."

Katti says animal trials were conducted on pigs in cooperation with Stan Casteel, MU professor of veterinary medicine. Katti said the pigs provided an ideal test model because they are so similar to humans in size and physiology. Following the issuance of a patent from the federal government, Katti hopes to secure an industrial sponsor to support human trials within the next three to five years.

Katti's breakthrough research on water has appeared in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.