Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Physics provides new insights on cataract formation

13.11.2007
Using the tools and techniques of soft condensed matter physics, a research team in Switzerland has demonstrated that a finely tuned balance of attractions between proteins keeps the lens of the eye transparent, and that even a small change in this balance can cause proteins to aggregate and de-mix.

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.

Mary Parlange | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.epfl.ch
http://www.unifr.ch/physics/mm/

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Massive photons in an artificial magnetic field
14.11.2019 | Faculty of Physics University of Warsaw

nachricht A new approach to the hunt for dark matter
14.11.2019 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: New opportunities in additive manufacturing presented

Fraunhofer IFAM Dresden demonstrates manufacturing of copper components

The Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials IFAM in Dresden has succeeded in using Selective Electron Beam Melting (SEBM) to...

Im Focus: New Pitt research finds carbon nanotubes show a love/hate relationship with water

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are valuable for a wide variety of applications. Made of graphene sheets rolled into tubes 10,000 times smaller than a human hair, CNTs have an exceptional strength-to-mass ratio and excellent thermal and electrical properties. These features make them ideal for a range of applications, including supercapacitors, interconnects, adhesives, particle trapping and structural color.

New research reveals even more potential for CNTs: as a coating, they can both repel and hold water in place, a useful property for applications like printing,...

Im Focus: Magnets for the second dimension

If you've ever tried to put several really strong, small cube magnets right next to each other on a magnetic board, you'll know that you just can't do it. What happens is that the magnets always arrange themselves in a column sticking out vertically from the magnetic board. Moreover, it's almost impossible to join several rows of these magnets together to form a flat surface. That's because magnets are dipolar. Equal poles repel each other, with the north pole of one magnet always attaching itself to the south pole of another and vice versa. This explains why they form a column with all the magnets aligned the same way.

Now, scientists at ETH Zurich have managed to create magnetic building blocks in the shape of cubes that - for the first time ever - can be joined together to...

Im Focus: A new quantum data classification protocol brings us nearer to a future 'quantum internet'

The algorithm represents a first step in the automated learning of quantum information networks

Quantum-based communication and computation technologies promise unprecedented applications, such as unconditionally secure communications, ultra-precise...

Im Focus: Distorted Atoms

In two experiments performed at the free-electron laser FLASH in Hamburg a cooperation led by physicists from the Heidelberg Max Planck Institute for Nuclear physics (MPIK) demonstrated strongly-driven nonlinear interaction of ultrashort extreme-ultraviolet (XUV) laser pulses with atoms and ions. The powerful excitation of an electron pair in helium was found to compete with the ultrafast decay, which temporarily may even lead to population inversion. Resonant transitions in doubly charged neon ions were shifted in energy, and observed by XUV-XUV pump-probe transient absorption spectroscopy.

An international team led by physicists from the MPIK reports on new results for efficient two-electron excitations in helium driven by strong and ultrashort...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

High entropy alloys for hot turbines and tireless metal-forming presses

05.11.2019 | Event News

Smart lasers open up new applications and are the “tool of choice” in digitalization

30.10.2019 | Event News

International Symposium on Functional Materials for Electrolysis, Fuel Cells and Metal-Air Batteries

02.10.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

New opportunities in additive manufacturing presented

14.11.2019 | Materials Sciences

Massive photons in an artificial magnetic field

14.11.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Fraunhofer Radio Technology becomes part of the worldwide Telecom Infra Project (TIP)

14.11.2019 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>