2012-2013

New Study Sheds Light on How Cells Transport Materials Along Crowded Intercellular 'Highways'

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Study by Physicists at WPI and UMass Amherst Provides New Insights into a Cellular System Whose Failure Can Lead to Neurodegenerative Diseases and Cancer.

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Study by Physicists at WPI and UMass Amherst Provides New Insights into a Cellular System Whose Failure Can Lead to Neurodegenerative Diseases and Cancer.

The interior of an animal cell is like a small city, with factories—called organelles—dedicated to manufacturing, energy production, waste processing, and other life functions. A network of intercellular "highways," called microtubules, enables bio-molecular complexes, products, and other cargo to move speedily about the cell to keep this vital machinery humming. A new paper published online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences sheds new light on how cells manage to keep traffic flowing smoothly along this busy transportation network that is vital to the survival of cells and whose failure can lead to a variety of diseases, including Alzheimer's and cancer.

 The study, "Motor Transport of Self-Assembled Cargos in Crowded Environments", is co-authored by Jennifer Ross, assistant professor of physics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Erkan Tuzel, assistant professor of physics at Worrcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), and Leslie Conway and Derek Wood, graduate students of physics at UMass Amherst. It examines how proteirns called motors (the trucks of the intercellular transport network) cooperate to minimize traffic jams and maximize the distance traveled by cargos.

In the study, the researchers used quantum dots (nanometer-sized semiconductors that reflect brightly in mocroscopy images) as cargo. In the laboratory, they attached these tiny cargos to individual motor proteins and then allowed those proteins to attach  to a microtubule, read more..

December 13, 2012

 
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