Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

High Glucose Levels Could Impair Ferroelectricity in Body's Connective Tissues

17.04.2013
High sugar levels in the body come at a cost to health. New research suggests that more sugar in the body could damage the elastic proteins that help us breathe and pump blood. The findings could have health implications for diabetics, who have high blood-glucose levels.

Researchers at the University of Washington and Boston University have discovered that a certain type of protein found in organs that repeatedly stretch and retract – such as the heart and lungs – is the source for a favorable electrical property that could help build and support healthy connective tissues. But when exposed to sugar, some of the proteins no longer could perform their function, according to findings published April 15 in the journal Physical Review Letters.

The property, called ferroelectricity, is a response to an electric field in which a molecule switches from having a positive to a negative charge. Only recently discovered in animal tissues, researchers have traced this property to elastin and found that when exposed to sugar, the elastin protein sometimes slows or stops its ferroelectric switching. This could lead to the hardening of those tissues and, ultimately, degrade an artery or ligament.

"This finding is important because it tells us the origin of the ferroelectric switching phenomenon and also suggests it's not an isolated occurrence in one type of tissue as we thought," said co-corresponding author Jiangyu Li, a UW associate professor of mechanical engineering. "This could be associated with aging and diabetes, which I think gives more importance to the phenomenon."

About a year ago, Li and collaborators discovered ferroelectric switching in mammalian tissues, a surprising first for the field. Ferroelectricity is common in synthetic materials and is used for displays, memory storage and sensors. Li's research team found that the wall of a pig's aorta, the largest blood vessel carrying blood to the heart, exhibits ferroelectric switching properties.

Li said that discovery left researchers with a lot of questions, including whether this property is found in other soft tissues and the health implications of its presence. Observing differences in ferroelectric behavior at the protein level has helped to answer some of those questions.

The research team separated the aortic tissue into two types of proteins, collagen and elastin. Fibrous collagen is widespread in biological tissues, while elastin has only been found in animals with a backbone. Elastin, as its name suggests, is springy and helps the heart and lungs stretch and contract. Ferroelectric switching gives elastin the flexibility needed to perform repeated pulses as with an artery.

When researchers treated the elastin with sugar, they found that glucose suppressed ferroelectric switching by up to 50 percent. This interaction between sugar and protein mimics a natural process called glycation, in which sugar molecules attach to proteins, degrading their structure and function. Glycation happens naturally when we age and is associated with a number of diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and arteriosclerosis, a thickening and hardening of the arteries.

The research team has focused solely on the aortic tissues, but this finding likely applies to other biological tissues that have the protein elastin, such as the lungs and skin.

"I would expect the same phenomena will be observed in those tissues and organs as well," Li said. "It will be more common than what we originally thought."

Researchers next will drill down even more to look at the molecular mechanics of ferroelectric switching and further try to connect the process with disease onset.

Co-authors are Yuanming Liu, Nataly Q. Chen and Feiyue Ma at the UW, and Yanhang Zhang, Yunjie Wang and Ming-Jay Chow at Boston University.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the UW and a NASA Space Technology Research Fellowship.

For more information, contact Li at 206-543-6226 or jjli@uw.edu.

Li's faculty webpage: http://www.me.washington.edu/research/faculty/jjli/index.php

Michelle Ma | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uw.edu

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht 3D images of cancer cells in the body: Medical physicists from Halle present new method
16.05.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

nachricht Better equipped in the fight against lung cancer
16.05.2018 | Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

Im Focus: Dozens of binaries from Milky Way's globular clusters could be detectable by LISA

Next-generation gravitational wave detector in space will complement LIGO on Earth

The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...

Im Focus: Entangled atoms shine in unison

A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.

The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...

Im Focus: Computer-Designed Customized Regenerative Heart Valves

Cardiovascular tissue engineering aims to treat heart disease with prostheses that grow and regenerate. Now, researchers from the University of Zurich, the Technical University Eindhoven and the Charité Berlin have successfully implanted regenerative heart valves, designed with the aid of computer simulations, into sheep for the first time.

Producing living tissue or organs based on human cells is one of the main research fields in regenerative medicine. Tissue engineering, which involves growing...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Matabele ants: Travelling faster with detours

22.05.2018 | Life Sciences

Flow of cerebrospinal fluid regulates neural stem cell division

22.05.2018 | Life Sciences

Chemists at FAU successfully demonstrate imine hydrogenation with inexpensive main group metal

22.05.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>