New treatment options

Unlocking the secrets of cell communication

Portland State University (PSU) researchers have made a significant breakthrough by developing the 3-D structure of proteins from inside the eye lens that control how cells communicate with each other, which could open the door to treating diseases such as cataracts, stroke and cancer.

Photo
The 3-D structure of the gap junction communication channel from the eye lens, resolved to near-atomic resolution by the Reichow Lab using cryo-electron microscopy.

The PSU research team, led by chemistry professor Steve Reichow, used a multimillion-dollar microscope and a novel technique developed by three Nobel Prize-winning biophysicists called cryo-electron microscopy (Cryo-EM) to view membrane protein channels — or transportation tunnels in cell walls — at the atomic level. 

This allowed Reichow’s team, whose research is supported by the National Institutes of Health, to create a 3-D image of the membrane channel to better understand the processes involved in cell-to-cell communication.

Our discovery may one day pave the way for development of pharmaceuticals that can control heart disease or other diseases that are associated with the malfunctions or mis-regulations of these protein channels

Steve Reichow

Portland State researchers used Cryo-EM — a microscope technique that freezes biomolecules in mid-movement and takes ultra-high-resolution images — and computer modeling to see the 3-D structure of gap junction proteins that had been isolated from eye lenses. Gap junctions are tiny channels that allow neighboring cells to communicate with one another and are found in many places throughout the body. Their findings — published Dec. 12 in the scientific journal Nature — showed for the first time how gap junctions selectively pass or block chemical information. Until now, it was not known how these channels would allow certain messages to pass between cells while specifically blocking others.

Reichow said the detailed images may open the door to understanding, and potentially treating, different types of diseases that are associated with the loss of function in cellular communication involving gap junctions such as cataracts, cardiac arrhythmia, stroke and certain cancers. "Currently there's no drug on the market today that can specifically block or activate gap junction proteins," Reichow said. “But our discovery may one day pave the way for development of pharmaceuticals that can control heart disease or other diseases that are associated with the malfunctions or mis-regulations of these protein channels."

Now that the Reichow Lab has established a method for characterizing the proteins, they are trying to understand the nuances of how the body uses gap junctions differently across tissues and organs.


Source: Portland State University

13.12.2018

Read all latest stories

Related articles

Photo

Photoacoustics

New method shows 3D images of cancer cells in the body

Making tumour cells glow: Medical physicists at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) have developed a new method that can generate detailed three-dimensional images of the body's interior.…

Photo

Pathologists and Radiologists

3D imaging of cancer cells could lead to improved ability

Imaging research is one step closer to giving clinicians a way to do high-resolution scans of malignant cells in order to diagnose cancer and help identify useful therapies. If this technology were…

Photo

New cause for tumor spread found

Blood vessels produce growth factor that promotes metastases

Scientists from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and the Medical Faculty Mannheim, Heidelberg University, have identified a new growth factor produced by blood vessels that enables tumor…

Related products

Canon – Artemis

Tomosynthesis

Canon – Artemis

Canon Medical Systems Europe B.V.
Canon - HIT Automation Platform

Artificial Intelligence

Canon - HIT Automation Platform

Canon Medical Systems Europe B.V.
Cefla – NewTom Giano HR Range

Conebeam CT

Cefla – NewTom Giano HR Range

Cefla s.c.
FUJIFILM Wako - Autokit CH50 Assay

Clinical Chemistry

FUJIFILM Wako - Autokit CH50 Assay

Wako Chemicals GmbH
Hologic -3DQuorum

Artificial Intelligence

Hologic -3DQuorum

Hologic, Inc.
Subscribe to Newsletter