This leads to cataract formation, the world’s leading cause of blindness. This work could shed light on other protein aggregation diseases (such as Alzheimer’s disease), and may one day lead to methods for stabilizing protein interactions and thus preventing these problematic aggregations from occurring.
The eye lens is made up of densely packed crystallin proteins, arranged in such a way that light in the visible wavelength range can pass through. But for a variety of reasons including UV radiation exposure and age, the proteins sometimes change their behavior and clump together. As a result, light is scattered once it enters the lens, resulting in cloudy vision or blindness. There is currently no known way to reverse the protein aggregation process once it has begun. Nearly 5 million people every year undergo cataract surgery in which their lenses are removed and replaced with artificial ones.
Previous research has shown that the interactions between the three major crystallin proteins that make up the concentrated eye lens protein solution are key to cataract formation. A team of scientists from the University of Fribourg, EPFL and the Rochester Institute of Technology (USA) studied the interactions between two of these proteins, at concentrations similar to those found in the eye lens, using a combination of neutron scattering experiments and molecular dynamics computer simulations. They found that a finely tuned combination of attraction and repulsion between the two proteins resulted in an arrangement that was transparent to visible light. “By combining experiments and simulations it became possible to quantify that there had to be a weak attraction between the proteins in order for the eye lens to be transparent,” explains EPFL postdoctoral researcher Giuseppe Foffi, a member of the Institut Romand de Recherche Numerique en Physique des Materiaux (IRRMA). “Our results indicate that cataracts may form if this balance of attractions is disrupted, and this opens a new direction for research into cataract formation.”
“Lots of studies have been done on individual proteins in the lens,” adds University of Fribourg physicist and lead author Anna Stradner, “But none on their mixtures at concentrations typically found in the eye. We modeled these proteins as colloidal particles, and found there was a very narrow window in which the protein solution remained stable, and this was a necessary condition for lens transparency.”
In addition to unveiling important new information about the interactions of the proteins in the eye lens, this benchmark study provides a framework for further study into the molecular properties and interactions of proteins. The results suggest that these properties could perhaps be manipulated to prevent aggregation or reverse the aggregation process once it has begun.
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The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
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Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.
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The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.
Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...
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