27. November 2007
New insights on cataract formationHuman Health Medical Science Biology Research Using Neutrons
Using the tools and techniques of soft condensed matter physics, a research team from University of Fribourg and EPF Lausanne 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. In addition to unveiling 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. The results are reported in the November 9 issue of Physical Review Letters. The neutron scattering experiments were done at the Paul Scherrer Institute in Villigen, Switzerland.