molecule in its natural form
With the new study, the researchers are adding another piece of the puzzle to their insights into how Alzheimer’s develops and is diagnosed. In an earlier study, the team led by Empa researcher Peter Nirmalraj from the “Transport at Nanoscale Interfaces” laboratory in Dübendorf was able to present the potentially problematic proteins in their natural form in the blood. The team has already received an award for this work from the “Franco Regli Foundation” in Bern. The researchers are now showing in detail the unadulterated form of the proteins directly in the liquor.
This was possible thanks to a technology that makes the innermost world of molecules recognizable with impressive precision: atomic force microscopy (AFM). The size is reminiscent of a conventional table microscope, but AFM technology enables morphological observations in the nanometer range without destroying the proteins. And when analyzing the size, structure, shape and spatial structure of the protein accumulations directly in the liquor, the team was now able to identify a connection to the disease stage. “Whereas only short protein fibers with a length of around 100 nanometers were found in people in the early phase of the disease, fibers with a much larger extent, which could be several micrometers long, appeared in later phases of the disease,” says biophysicist Nirmalraj. On the other hand, the samples of healthy persons contained no or only a few particularly short fibers.
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