Newsportal - Ruhr-Universität Bochum
Biosensor for detecting defects in the protein balance of cells
An international team of researchers aims to discover how cells keep their protein levels balanced. To do this, the German, Australian and American scientists have been given around 1.2 million euros of funding from the Human Frontier Science Program for three years. One of the four successful applicants is Prof Dr Simon Ebbinghaus from the Chair for Physical Chemistry II at Ruhr-Universität Bochum and member of the Cluster of Excellence “Ruhr explores solvation”.
Healthy cells require a variety of proteins in order to function. Under a wide range of conditions, for instance when the water content of the cells changes, the proteins have to be present in the right three-dimensional structure and in the right quantity. A sophisticated control and repair system disposes of misfolded or aggregated proteins and corrects faulty three-dimensional structures. These mechanisms no longer function correctly at an older age, under stress or with certain illnesses.
Well-known protein as a sensor
Simon Ebbinghaus and his colleagues want to develop a biosensor that measures how effectively a cell regulates the protein balance under various conditions. A protein with a well-known three-dimensional structure should be used as a biosensor. In addition, the researchers know precisely under what conditions this protein folds and how. The idea: they want to record how strongly the sensor protein in a cell deviates from its normal state; in this way, they can make conclusions about how well the cellular control and repair system functions. To do this, the team uses special microscopic methods and computer models.
The strategy makes it possible to map the complex processes in a simple way and unravel them both in terms of space and time. The research work aims to provide a quantitative image of the capacities of the control system for the first time. “In the future, this could help to identify and influence malfunctions linked to the development of neurodegenerative illnesses,” says Simon Ebbinghaus.
The Human Frontier Science Program supports research into complex processes in living organisms. The initiative funds above all innovative and daring research projects by cooperation partners who have only recently come together. The team should have both an international and interdisciplinary composition. The groups must offer a range of expertise in order to answer questions together that they would not be able to research alone.
Prof Dr Simon Ebbinghaus
Laser Spectroscopy and Biophotonics
Chair for Physical Chemistry II
Faculty of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Phone: +49 234 32 25533
24 March 2017