Bonn, Germany 27 March 2013 In diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's endogenous proteins accumulate in the brain, eventually leading to the death of nerve cells. These deposits, which consist of abnormally formed proteins, are supposed to migrate between interconnected areas of the brain, thereby contributing to the development of the illness. Now, a new laboratory study by scientists from Germany and the US shows that certain protein particles are indeed capable of multiplying and spreading from one cell to the next. The investigation was conducted by researchers of the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) in Bonn and Munich who cooperated with scientists from the US and from other German institutions. The results are now published in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA" (PNAS).
Are particles consisting of deformed proteins capable of moving from one cell's interior to the next, multiplying and spreading as in a chain reaction? The team of scientists headed by Ina Vorberg, who is a researcher at the DZNE site in Bonn and a professor at the University of Bonn, investigated this hypothesis. The scientists did so with the help of cell cultures, which allowed them to adapt experiments to specific questions.
The researchers used cultured brain cells that originated from mice. The genetic code of a model protein was transferred into these cells, enabling the scientists to control production of the protein.
A yeast particle
The blueprint of the molecule was extracted from yeast DNA. This protein does not exist in humans. Nevertheless, the scientists chose this particular protein because it had several properties that were relevant for the study: In its natural environment the yeast cell it is capable of forming replicating "aggregates" (i. e. large protein particles). The protein deforms during this process. Now, the question was, whether something similar would happen
|Contact: Dirk Förger|
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres