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Molecular machines

Understanding proteins may end Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s

By Kelly Foss

Protein molecules perform an astonishing range of functions in all forms of life — from the digestion of food and the replication of genes to the propagation of signals in cells and the nervous system.

A public lecture on Memorial’s St. John’s campus will illustrate examples of these versatile molecular machines and how they are generated and how they exert their functions. Dr. Ben Schuler is professor of molecular biophysics at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, and is the 2016 Dr. and Mrs. Satti Paddi and Parvati Reddy Memorial Lecturer.

Implications for health and disease

“A particularly remarkable aspect of proteins, which are produced as chains of monomeric building blocks, the amino acids, is that their molecular three-dimensional structure is encoded within their amino acid sequence,” he said. “This process of protein folding is understood at an increasingly detailed level, thanks to advanced experimental methods and physical concepts.

“Protein folding also has wide-ranging implications for health and disease — if the folding process fails, misfolding diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease can emerge. Joining the forces of physics, chemistry, and biology will thus continue to be essential for understanding protein molecules and for treating or preventing such debilitating diseases.”

Public lecture

Dr. Schuler’s research investigates the structure, dynamics, folding and misfolding of proteins with biophysical methods, in particular, single-molecule fluorescence spectroscopy. His public lecture, The Fascinating World of Proteins: Molecular Machines of Biology, takes place Monday, Oct. 17, at 7 p.m. in the Bruneau Centre for Research and Innovation, room IIC-2001. A reception will follow and limited free parking is available in lot 1A.

He will also give a research seminar titled, Biophysics at the Nanoscale: Single-Molecule Spectroscopy of Protein Folding and Dynamics, on Tuesday, Oct. 18, at 10:30 a.m. in the Chemistry-Physics building, room C-2004.

The Dr. and Mrs. Satti Paddi and Parvati Reddy Memorial Lecture Series was created to honour the research contributions of Dr. S.P. Reddy, a professor emeritus and former head of the Department of Physics and Physical Oceanography. The purpose is to attract a well-spoken leader in physics research or discovery, providing wide-reaching benefit to the general public and university community.


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