Proteins are large molecular chains that move around cells carrying vital information on the activity of the organism. The role of each protein depends largely on the form it takes, but the proteins occasionally lose this form when they collide and bind with other proteins. They aggregate, and lose their function, growing continuously to form what are known as amyloid fibres. This causes neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and forms of spongiform encephalopathy, such as mad cow disease (BSE) and its human form, Creuzfeldt-Jacob disease. It also produces the pancreatic malfunctions that cause type 2 diabetes.
A team of scientists from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, led by the researcher Salvador Ventura, has developed a method that allows those parts of the proteins that set off aggregation to be identified. Using this method one is able to identify the precise zones of each protein that force these proteins to bond, aggregate and form amyloid fibres. The scientists have tested the method with different proteins involved in conformational diseases, while identifying zones that were already known for their role in protein aggregation and the diseases mentioned above.
According to Salvador Ventura, their method “identifies potential therapeutic targets against illnesses caused by protein aggregation, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and type 2 diabetes. It allows a more precise identification of the targets, meaning that in theory they can be attacked more effectively”.
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