New research in the Journal of Luminescence by Polish researchers Hanczyc and colleagues could make finding a cure for neurodegenerative disease faster and easier.
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease that leads to the progressive degeneration of nerve cells within the brain. Although the causes of Alzheimer’s are not well understood, the brains of individuals affected with the disease show a large number of amyloid plaques. These are protein bundles that fold and stick together to form thin fibers called fibrils. Other neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease also show evidence of these plaques. As a result, it is vital for scientists to understand how these amyloid fibrils affect the death of neurons and disease progression.
In a new study published in the Journal of Luminescence, Hanczyc and colleagues describe new probes to detect and study insulin fibrils. Insulin fibrils are similar to amyloid fibrils and are typically found in diabetic patients who must inject insulin.
The Polish-American research team tested two molecules—ThT and PTEBS—for the ability to bind to insulin fibrils. These two molecules bind to the fibrils and light up, so they can be observed under a microscope. ThT is typically used for detecting fibrils, but requires a difficult preparation step, so finding an alternative is vital to increasing our understanding of fibrils and their involvement in neurodegenerative disease.
The researchers found that PTEBS does not alter fibril structures, and lights up similarly to ThT. This means that this newer, easier-to-use probe can be used in the study of both insulin and amyloid fibrils. This new technology will make research into neurodegenerative disease much easier, and will hopefully lead to new discoveries that help us slow down disease progression in nervous system diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s.
Written by C.I. Villamil
Reference: Hanczyc et al. 2018. Surface patterns of insulin fibrils revealed by time-resolved spectroscopy measurements of fluorescent probes. J Luminescence 201:31-37.