Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Protecting cells

25.08.2011
Evidence found for a neuronal switch to prevent neurodegenerative diseases

Scientists at Northwestern University report a surprising discovery that offers a possible new route for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. In a study of the transparent roundworm C. elegans, they found that a genetic switch in master neurons inhibits the proper functioning of protective cell stress responses, leading to the accumulation of misfolded and damaged proteins.

Neurodegenerative diseases, ranging from Huntington's and Parkinson's to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Alzheimer's, are believed to stem from early events that lead to an accumulation of damaged proteins in cells. Yet all animals, including humans, have an ancient and very powerful mechanism for detecting and responding to such damage, known as the heat shock response.

"Why are these diseases so widespread if our cells have ways to detect and prevent damaged proteins from accumulating?" said Richard I. Morimoto, who led the research together with postdoctoral colleague Veena Prahlad. "Can our body fix the problem? That is the conundrum."

"In our study, much to our surprise, we discovered that the nervous system sends negative signals to other tissues in the animal that inhibit the ability of cells to activate a protective heat shock response," Morimoto said. "The machinery to repair the damaged proteins is intact, but the nervous system is sending a signal that prevents it from doing its job."

When the signal from the nervous system was reduced, the cells' heat shock response returned, leading to elevated levels of special protective proteins, called molecular chaperones, that kept the damaged proteins in check.

Morimoto is the Bill and Gayle Cook Professor of Biology in the department of molecular biosciences and the Rice Institute for Biomedical Research in Northwestern's Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

The findings are published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

"Currently, we have no solution for these devastating diseases," Morimoto said. "This master neuronal switch could offer a new target for therapy. If we can restore the natural ability of cells to prevent protein damage, our cells should be healthier longer and the quality of life will be better."

The findings are also applicable to other diseases that involve protein misfolding, such as cancer and metabolic diseases, Morimoto said.

Morimoto and Prahlad studied C. elegans, specifically models with different forms of protein misfolding diseases. The transparent roundworm is a valued research tool as its biochemical environment is similar to that of human beings and its genome, or complete genetic sequence, is known.

They interfered with the nervous system signal, the "master switch," to see what would happen to the animals. When the signal was working, the animals accumulated damaged proteins in their cells that interfered with cellular function. But when the researchers reduced the neuronal signal a little bit, the normal cellular response to protein damage returned and the animals were healthy.

While the downregulation of the neuronal signal in the study was done genetically, in humans the idea would be to alter the signal chemically, Morimoto said.

"This work gives us an appreciation that animals are not just a bundle of cells, each on its own to sense and respond to damage," he said. "The cells are organized into tissues, tied into a network that is organized by the brain. The brain can tell the cells to turn on a stress response or not. The nervous system is talking to all the parts to orchestrate an organismal response to stress. That's what's so fascinating."

The paper, titled "Neuronal circuitry regulates Q:1 the response of Caenorhabditis elegans to misfolded proteins," is available at http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2011/08/10/1106557108.abstract.

Megan Fellman | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.northwestern.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Newly discovered bacteria-binding protein in the intestine
08.12.2016 | University of Gothenburg

nachricht The balancing act: An enzyme that links endocytosis to membrane recycling
07.12.2016 | National Centre for Biological Sciences

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Will Earth still exist 5 billion years from now?

08.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Oxygen can wake up dormant bacteria for antibiotic attacks

08.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

Newly discovered bacteria-binding protein in the intestine

08.12.2016 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>