The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) has received a five-year $1.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of General Medical Sciences to investigate therapies for diseases associated with protein aggregation using slime mold as a biological model.
Matt Scaglione, PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry at MCW, is the principal investigator of the grant.
Protein aggregation is a biological phenomenon in which proteins accumulate and clump together within the cell. This activity is associated with more than 71 diseases including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Currently, no cures for these diseases exist, and available treatments focus solely on improving symptoms.
MCW researchers have found that a particular cellular slime mold, Dictyostelium discoideum, is an organism that is naturally resistant to protein aggregation. Dictyostelium possess molecular pathways that inhibit protein aggregation from occurring.
With this model, MCW researchers will investigate the properties of the slime mold that help to fight off protein aggregation. The identification of these properties will reveal potential therapies to prevent diseases such as ALS and Parkinson’s.
“What’s innovative about this particular research is that normally scientists study how cells and organisms react to addition of aggregation prone proteins,” said Dr. Scaglione. “For this study, we are doing the exact opposite. We found an organism that normally suppresses protein aggregation and are attempting to figure out how. Once we accomplish this, we can then try to find how it could be applied to humans.”
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