Fox Chase Cancer Center researchers and their colleagues in Japan and San Francisco have obtained new insight into the molecular structure of prion particles responsible for mad cow disease and other degenerative neurological disorders. In new research to be published in this weeks Online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (www.pnas.org), Fox Chase biophysicist Heinrich Roder, Ph.D., and colleagues describe a computer model of the structural core of prions, based on biophysical measurements of a fibrous form of a prion protein fragment. Prions are infectious protein particles linked to degenerative neurological diseases in animals and humans, such as mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE) in cattle, scrapie in sheep and goats, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in humans.
For proteins, form really does equal function. Not only are they essential building blocks of the body, but proteins are also the workers of every cell, carrying out its specific functions. This function depends on the ultimate three-dimensional shape of the protein, a form achieved by folding flexible chains of amino acids until each is properly aligned so that the protein can do its job. Normally, the folding of proteins is highly efficient and specific, but sometimes the process goes awry, resulting in dangerous misfolded forms.
Prion diseases result from the conversion of a normal cellular protein into an alternative structure that forms threadlike fibers called amyloid fibrils. They accumulate in target tissues, such as brain tissue, where they cause the progressive degeneration of cognitive and motor functions and ultimately prove fatal.
Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity
22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden
The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet
22.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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22.09.2017 | Life Sciences
22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering
22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy