New optical techniques shed light on protein aggregation

FunGen-AD grantee Peter St George-Hyslop was part of a collaboration among researchers from the University of Sydney, University of Cambridge, Harvard University, and Columbia University that developed new optical methods to observe development of pathological protein aggregates in cells. Some proteins form reversible liquid-like condensates that function as membraneless organelles and are important for normal cell processes. These aggregates have been tied to neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and amyotrophic sclerosis (ALS).

This research marks the first nanoscale optical observation of membraneless organelles transitioning into solid protein aggregates and reveals that the liquid-to-solid transition is a dynamic process that starts at the condensate surface, where it may be accessible to small molecule modulators. This observation opens a promising new area of research to better understand how neurodegenerative disease affects the brain.

The research was supported in part by FunGen-AD grant U01AG072572 and was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences here. You can read more about the research findings at the following links: