Supercomputer Simulations may Pinpoint Causes of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s Diseases

Mar 19, 2007 By Paul K. Mueller
Supercomputer Simulations may Pinpoint Causes of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s Diseases
The work of researchers at UC San Diego and the San Diego Supercomputer Center is featured on the cover of the current issue of the Federation of European Biochemical Societies Journal

Using the massive computer-simulation power of the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at UC San Diego, researchers are zeroing in on the causes of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis and other diseases.

A study published in this week’s Federation of European Biochemical Societies (FEBS) Journal offers – for the first time – a model for the complex process of aggregation of a protein known as alpha-synuclein, which in turn leads to harmful ring-like or pore-like structures in human membranes, the kind of damage found in Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s patients.

The researchers at SDSC and UC San Diego also found that the destructive properties of alpha-synuclein can be blocked by beta-synuclein – a finding that could lead to treatments for many debilitating diseases.

The current journal’s cover features an image from the research that helps illustrate the scientists’ work.

“This is one of the first studies to use supercomputers to model how alpha-synuclein complexes damage the cells, and how that could be blocked,” said Eliezer Masliah, professor of neurosciences and pathology at UC San Diego. “We believe that these ring- or pore-like structures might be deleterious to the cells, and we have a unique opportunity to better understand how alpha-synuclein is involved in the pathogenesis of Parkinson’s disease, and how to reverse this process.”

Igor Tsigelny, project scientist in chemistry and biochemistry at UC San Diego and a researcher at SDSC, said that the team’s research helped confirm what researchers had suspected. “The present study – using molecular modeling and molecular dynamics simulations in combination with biochemical and ultrastructural analysis – shows that alpha-synuclein can lead to the formation of pore-like structures on membranes.”

In contrast, he said, “beta-synuclein appears to block the propagation of alpha-synucleins into harmful structures.”

The complex calculations for the study were performed on Blue Gene supercomputers at SDSC and the Argonne National Labs.

Tsigelny worked in collaboration with Pazit Bar-On, Department of Neurosciences; Yuriy Sharikov of SDSC; Leslie Crews of the Department of Pathology; Makoto Hashimoto of Neurosciences; Mark A. Miller of SDSC; Steve H. Keller in Medicine; Oleksandr Platoshyn and Jason X.J. Yuan, both in Medicine; and Masliah, all at UC San Diego.

Source: UC San Diego

Explore further: Study identifies new way to kill the malaria parasite

Related Stories

Global pharma firms grilled about tax in Australia

1 hour ago

The world's top pharmaceutical companies Wednesday told an Australian parliamentary hearing they were compliant with local and international laws, despite claims they are charging higher prices to minimise tax.

New China law to boost cyber security

1 hour ago

China's has passed sweeping new legislation reinforcing government controls over cyberspace in the wake of what it called growing threats to Chinese networks.

Solar Impulse reaches half way in Japan-US leg

1 hour ago

A solar-powered aircraft flying between Japan and Hawaii as part of a round-the-world bid passed the halfway point of the perilous Pacific Ocean crossing Wednesday, and smashed its own endurance record.

One-third of world's people still have no proper toilets

2 hours ago

Toilets are taken for granted in the industrialized West, but still are a luxury for a third of the world's people who have no access to them, according to a report by the World Health Organization and UNICEF.

Recommended for you

Researchers learn to measure aging process in young adults

16 hours ago

Looking around at a 20th high school reunion, you might notice something puzzling about your classmates. Although they were all born within months of each other, these 38-year-olds appear to be aging at different ...

New paradigm for treating 'inflammaging' and cancer

20 hours ago

Intermittent dosing with rapamycin selectively breaks the cascade of inflammatory events that follow cellular senescence, a phenomena in which cells cease to divide in response to DNA damaging agents, including ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.