Health & Medicine - Posted by Rebecca Scott-Melbourne on Friday, March 23, 2012 11:50 - 0 Comments
To find disease, method tracks proteins
U. MELBOURNE/ MONASH (AUS) — A new technique identifies and tracks diseased proteins inside cells and could assist with treatments for brain diseases and cancer.
Developed by Danny Hatters and his team in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology at the Bio21 Institute, University of Melbourne, the technique uses a flow cytometer to track the protein clusters in cells at a rate of thousands per minute.
In addition, cells with clustered proteins can be recovered for further study—neither of which had been possible before. The researchers, from the University of Melbourne and Monash University, report their findings in the journal Nature Methods.
Straight from the Source
“Being able to identify locations of diseased proteins in cells enables drugs to be developed to target different stages of disease development,” says Hatters.
He says the technique has application to many neurological diseases, which are characterized by formations of proteins clustering such as in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s diseases.
“A challenge for researchers has been trying to understand how proteins cluster and cause damage in diseases like Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s. This is the first approach which could enable us to answer those questions.”
“Now we can see how the proteins form clusters inside a cell and can examine which cell functions are being damaged at different steps of the clustering process.”
“No drugs at this stage can stop the clustering process in Huntington’s disease for example. This sets up platforms to develop drugs that block the formation of clusters,” Hatters says.
The technique can also be used to examine how signaling processes occur such as when genes are switched on and off.
“It has application to track events of abnormal gene signaling such as in cancer ” Hatters says. “This technique offers hope in improving treatments for a range of neurological and other conditions.”
This work builds on Hatters’s previous research in which he and his team identified the behavior of diseased Huntington proteins forming into clusters.
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