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New imaging technique measures toxicity of proteins associated with Alzheimer’s & Parkinson’s diseases

Brain showing hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease courtesy Zeiss Microscopy

Researchers in the Department of Chemistry have developed a new imaging technique to track how surface changes in proteins are related to diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

This super-resolution imaging allows researchers to study why proteins associated with these diseases may go from harmless to toxic. 

In a paper to be published in Nature Communications, researchers describe how they have harnessed a technology called multi-dimensional super-resolution imaging to observe changes in the surfaces of individual protein molecules as they clump together. The tool may allow researchers to pinpoint how proteins misfold and eventually become toxic to nerve cells in the brain, which could aid in the development of treatments for these devastating diseases.

“These proteins start out in a relatively harmless form, but when they clump together, something important changes,” says Dr Steven Lee, the study’s senior author. “But using conventional imaging techniques, it hasn’t been possible to see what’s going on at the molecular level.”

A longer version of this article is available on the University of Cambridge website