Brussels, 14 Sep 2004
Many of the most serious diseases currently affecting society, such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, are the result of proteins that have folded incorrectly, causing them to stick to each other and become toxic.
While this phenomenon is perceptible, until now it has been extremely difficult to predict with any accuracy. However, researchers from the Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology (VIB), Belgium, together with colleagues in Germany, have recently developed a statistical tool known as TANGO that can predict the susceptibility of proteins to stick together.
It had been thought that the process which causes proteins to stick together was arbitrary, but it is now clear that there is a universal mechanism behind the phenomenon. In essence, certain structural characteristics of the proteins determine the likelihood of their folding incorrectly and thus sticking together.
By applying these characteristics, the team of researchers were able to develop a mathematical algorithm that takes a large amount of data, including alterations in the protein and certain environmental factors, and predicts the probability that particular proteins will stick together.
TANGO not only offers the possibility of new diagnostic techniques for diseases of this kind, but it could also lead to the more efficient production of proteins for medical purposes. The yield of protein production processes is often very low, as many proteins stick to each other and are therefore very difficult to purify. Using TANGO, it should be possible to determine the conditions under which the solubility of therapeutic proteins is large enough to purify them more easily. If you have any questions relating to this research, you can send them to the VIB team at the following address: