Osmolytes critical to survival of kidney cells and organisms in extreme environments
Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) have developed a new way to predict the ability of certain small molecules to protect proteins in the cells of a wide variety of organisms living in extreme environments. The technique, described in a paper published online Oct. 7 in the Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences (PNAS), is a method of calculating the stabilizing effect on cellular proteins by small organic molecules called "osmolytes." It could have implications for the study of Alzheimers disease, cystic fibrosis, kidney disease and stabilizing protein drugs.
Osmolytes, whose effects were first well described in 1982, work to preserve various forms of life under extraordinarily hostile conditions. They keep cells alive in human kidneys, for example, despite high concentrations of the protein-destroying chemical urea; they enable a species of frog found in the Arctic literally to be frozen solid and then thawed without harm; and they make it possible for the remarkable microscopic creatures known as "water bears" to survive complete drying, exposure to intense radiation, and temperatures ranging from a few degrees above absolute zero to that of superheated steam.
Jim Kelly | EurekAlert!
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