Proteins are responsible for the vast majority of the cellular functions that shape life, but like guests at a crowded dinner party, they interact transiently and in complex networks, making it difficult to determine which specific interactions are most important.
Now, researchers from the University of Chicago have pioneered a new technique to simplify the study of protein networks and identify the importance of individual protein interactions. By designing synthetic proteins that can only interact with a pre-determined partner, and introducing them into cells, the team revealed a key interaction that regulates the ability of embryonic stem cells to change into other cell types. They describe their findings June 5 in Molecular Cell.
“Our work suggests that the apparent complexity of protein networks is deceiving, and that a circuit involving a small number of proteins might control each cellular function,” said senior author Shohei Koide, PhD, professor of biochemistry & molecular biophysics at the University of Chicago.
For a cell to perform biological functions and respond to the environment, proteins must interact with one another in immensely complex networks, which when diagrammed can resemble a subway map out of a nightmare. These networks have traditionally been studied by removing a protein of interest through genetic engineering and observing whether the removal destroys the function of interest or not. However, this does not provide information on the importance of specific protein-to-protein interactions.
To approach this challenge, Koide and his team pioneered a new technique that they dub “directed network wiring.” Studying mouse embryonic stem cells, they removed Grb2, a protein essential to the ability of the stem cell to transform into other cell types, from the cells. The researchers then designed synthetic versions of Grb2 that could only interact with one protein from a pool of dozens that normal Grb2 is known to network with. The team then introduced these synthetic proteins back into the cell to see which specific interactions would restore the stem cell’s transformative abilities.
“The name, ‘directed network wiring,’ comes from the fact that we create minimalist networks,” Koide said. “We first remove all communication lines associated with a protein of interest and add back a single line. It is analysis by addition.”
Despite the complexity of the protein network associated with stem cell development, the team discovered that restoring only one interaction—between Grb2 and a protein known as Ptpn11/Shp2 phosphatase—was enough to allow stem cells to again change into other cell types.
“We were really surprised to find that consolidating many interactions down to a single particular connection for the protein was sufficient to support development of the cells to the next stage, which involves many complicated processes,” Koide said. “Our results show that signals travel discrete and simple routes in the cell.”
Koide and his team are now working on streamlining directed network wiring and applying it to other areas of study such as cancer. With the ability to dramatically simplify how scientists study protein interaction networks, they hope to open the door to new research areas and therapeutic approaches.
“We can now design synthetic proteins that are far more sophisticated than natural ones, and use such super-performance proteins toward advancing science and medicine,” he said.
solo faltaria que hicieran la serie animada de los x-men con actores…
x-men cartoon to movie
NYU Langone Medical Center last month became the first hospital outside of a clinical trial site to implant a pacemaker-like device in the brain that may be a game-changer for patients with epilepsy.
The device, called the RNS System, was implanted April 17, 2014 in a patient with seizures that previously could not be controlled with medication, or intractable epilepsy, by Werner Doyle, MD, an associate professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at NYU Langone. The patient has recovered completely from the surgery.
The first-of-its-kind device is similar to an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), which delivers electrical pulses to the heart to prompt it to beat a normal rhythm and provides a new alternative treatment to vagus nerve stimulation and surgical removal of the focus site – parts in the brain where the seizures originate — for people with intractable epilepsy.
Prior to last month’s surgery, the only implants of the seizure-reducing medical device took place at U.S. medical centers that had previously researched the device’s effectiveness and safety, making NYU Langone the first non-study hospital in the U.S. and New York metropolitan area to offer the RNS System to patients.
"Medically intractable epilepsy is often a debilitating disorder that puts sufferers at risk from sudden loss of consciousness and uncontrolled movements. It stigmatizes patients and restricts their independence," said Dr. Doyle. "Epilepsy surgery is an important therapeutic option for patients, which can significantly or completely control their seizures and return their lives to normal. The RNS device improves our ability to control seizures with surgery and now offers patients who may not have been surgical candidates in the past a surgical option."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 2.3 million Americans suffer from epilepsy, with about one in 26 people expected to be diagnosed in their lifetimes. Approximately one-third of patients do not respond to medications and face major challenges with daily living. Uncontrolled seizures may interfere with normal activities such as working, going to school and driving. Patients also face increased risk for anxiety, depression, injury, brain damage, and in rare cases, death.
The RNS System, manufactured by NeuroPace Inc. of Mountain View, Calif., is a responsive stimulation device that’s implanted in the skull along with brain electrodes to detect abnormal electrical activity in the brain associated with seizures. After two or more weeks of recording the activity, doctors program the device to specifically respond to these abnormal signals by delivering imperceptible electrical pulses to the brain that normalize the activity. The device essentially “reboots” the portion of the brain where the seizure is originating, thereby effectively interrupting the abnormal electrical activity before it spreads or causes its unwanted effects.
The RNS System received pre-market approval from the Food and Drug Administration in November 2013 to treat patients’ seizures that have not been controlled by two or more antiepileptic medications.
In clinical trials performed at medical centers across the U.S., including at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in New Jersey by Dr. Doyle and Orrin Devinsky, MD, director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at NYU Langone, 55 percent of patients experienced a 50 percent or greater reduction in seizures two years post implantation.
"The RNS System represents one of the most important and innovative therapies to treat people with epilepsy," says Dr. Devinsky. "This new surgical therapy uses information to target and shut down points in the brain where seizures start without removing tissue, providing a novel option for patients with uncontrolled seizures."
For more information:
Neurology, Morrell et al, 2011.
Duke University researchers have found an antibody that simultaneously blocks the sensations of pain and itching in studies with mice.
The new antibody works by targeting the voltage-sensitive sodium channels in the cell membrane of neurons. The results appear online on May 22 in Cell.
Voltage-sensitive sodium channels control the flow of sodium ions through the neuron’s membrane. These channels open and close by responding to the electric current or action potential of the cells. One particular type of sodium channel, called the Nav1.7 subtype, is responsible for sensing pain.
Blocking a pain receptor in mice not only extends their lifespan, it also gives them a more youthful metabolism, including an improved insulin response that allows them to deal better with high blood sugar.
"We think that blocking this pain receptor and pathway could be very, very useful not…