Researchers are targeting the most common regulator of cells in the body with an entirely new approach.

A team from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio have studied a molecule called guanosine-5’-triphosphate (GTP) that could lead to a better method to screen candidates of anti-cancer compounds.

GTP activates G-proteins—which regulate cell movement, growth, architecture and differentiation, including transformation into cancer cells.

The researchers inserted the molecule into a bacterial G-protein called FeoB and constructed sensors of GTP activity. They now plan on using the sensors in high-throughput screening—a process that will help identify compounds that could reduce GTP levels in target cells.

This new approach could ultimately be used to treat disease.

“You could say we have built a flashlight that now allows us to explore a big room that was previously dark,” Rui Sousa, Ph.D., a professor of biochemistry and structural biology in the Joe R. & Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio, said in a statement. "This room is called 'GTP biology.'

“What will we find when we start exploring with this flashlight? We may find quite a lot because GTP biology could be involved in so many processes and so many disease states.”

The study was published in Nature Methods.