Recent insights of Prof. Anna von Mikecz, scientist at the IUF-Leibniz Research Institute for Environmental Medicine, shed new light on the development of protein aggregating diseases, e.g. Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease.
Anna von Mikecz, leader of the IUF group Influence of xenobiotics on the cell nucleus, focuses her research on the functional role of clumped, i.e. aggregated, proteins, also called amyloid, in the cell nucleus. As reported in her new scientific paper*, amyloid occurs also in healthy human cells and nuclei, and plays probably an important functional role.
Amyloids are formed by fibrillation of proteins. The main focus in the field of pharmacology lays on the pathological aspects of amyloids and countermeasures against neurodegenerative diseases today aim at the prevention of amyloid formation.
Prof. von Mikecz comments the assumption that amyloid formation is in general adverse, as follows: “This hypothesis is currently discussed controversially among scientists and it is becoming increasingly clear that we do not yet understand the molecular mechanisms of amyloid formation in the cell well enough.”A better understanding of the physiological and functional role of amyloids in the nucleus is a prerequisite for promising therapeutic interventions in neurodegenerative protein deposition diseases.”
The scientist’s results indicate that there is a tipping point for the adverse effect of amyloid in the nucleus, i.e. if a critical amount of amyloid in the nucleus is exceeded, harmful neuro-degenerative effects result.
Her research also shows that the amyloid equilibrium is disbalanced by exposure to xenobiotics such as certain nano-particles and heavy metals. The exposure leads to an increase in the amount of amyloid in the nucleus above the critical amount. This can be observed in vivo in animal studies as well as in vitro in cell cultures.
It is to be expected, that this new concept will facilitate the development of original diagnostic approaches, bring us significantly closer to effective countermeasures and also contribute to understanding the relationship between exposure to xenobiotics and the development of neuro-degenerative diseases.
*Anna von Mikecz (2014). Pathology and function of nuclear amyloid: protein homeostasis matters. Nucleus (open access, June 4th 2014)
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Dr. Mardas Daneshian | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
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