Wednesday, June 08, 2005

"Molecular zipper" may hold clue to disease

I have been away briefly, but I am back to look at medical discovery and some of the quirkier and more interesting aspects of this world. I like to look at the language scientists use, language that is selected from the everyday to describe what is less than ordinary.

Recently, researchers found a molecular mechanism linked to Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, mad cow disease, and other diseases. David Eisenberg, director of the UCLA-DOE Institute of Genomics and Proteomics, has looked at the structure of a peptide that reveals what he calls a "molecular zipper," and this zipper turns our to be "pathologically dry." He says that once the zipper forms, there is no turning back on disease progression. Eisenberg's report presents the first atomic-level look at these structures.

This is the kind of science that will be the basis for medical treatment and cures of the future, and I am intrigued when they go to the atom - this falls in line with what worms and black holes are to astronomers - only looking inward instead of into the heavens!

"Other proteins just do their jobs," Eisenberg says in a press release, "but these transformer proteins are different, and exceedingly strange. We believe we are now coming to grips with these proteins." Melinda Balbirnie, a researcher on Eisenberg's team, says, "We are learning how these biological machines work."

The discovery is reported June 9 in the journal Nature, so check it out!

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