Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, type 2 diabetes similar at molecular level

Apr 30, 2007
Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, type 2 diabetes similar at molecular level
A montage of micro-crystals is used to determine the microscopic structures of Alzheimer´s, other diseases, with the image of a U.S. dime superimposed. Credit: UCLA

Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, type 2 diabetes, the human version of mad cow disease, and other degenerative diseases are more closely related at the molecular level than scientists realized, a team reports this week in an advanced online publication of the journal Nature.

While still preliminary, the research, could help scientists develop tools for diagnosing such diseases, and potentially for treating them through "structure-based drug design," said David Eisenberg, a UCLA chemist and molecular biologist who is part of the research team.

The researchers studied the harmful rope-like structures known as amyloid fibrils--linked protein molecules that form in the brain. The fibrils contain a stack of water-tight "molecular zippers."

"With each disease, a different protein transforms into amyloid fibrils, but all of these diseases are similar at the molecular level," Eisenberg said.

If the molecular zipper is universal in amyloid fibrils, as Eisenberg believes, is it possible to pry open the zipper or prevent its formation?

Eisenberg's research team used X-ray analysis and a sophisticated computer algorithm to study proteins known to be associated with human diseases. When the computer said a protein will form an amyloid fibril, it almost always did. And one team member is experimenting with various compounds to break up the fibrils.

"Structural analysis of micro-crystals of proteins is an example of how basic research can have a profound impact on our understanding of health, biotechnology and other practical issues," said Parag Chitnis, program director in National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences.

Source: National Science Foundation

Explore further: Why do parents who usually vaccinate their children hesitate or refuse?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

March of the penguin genomes

Dec 11, 2014

Two penguin genomes have been sequenced and analyzed for the first time in the open access, open data journal GigaScience. Timely for the holiday season, the study reveals insights into how these birds have b ...

Recommended for you

In the battle against Ebola, a double-layer solution

2 hours ago

When working with Ebola patients, protective gear works, but removing it can be harrowing. Seeking to protect health care workers from the precarious nature of taking off soiled gloves, Cornell students have ...

New hope for rare disease drug development

13 hours ago

Using combinations of well-known approved drugs has for the first time been shown to be potentially safe in treating a rare disease, according to the results of a clinical trial published in the open access Orphanet Journal of ...

Three weeks since last Ebola case in Mali: WHO

16 hours ago

Mali has not had a case of Ebola for three weeks, the World Health Organization said Wednesday, completing one of the two incubation periods the country needs to be declared free of the virus.

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.