The origin of life is one of the great, unsolved mysteries of biology. In a quest to improve understanding of how life might have originally emerged, a group of LMB scientists have managed to construct an enzyme that can mimic how the first forms of life may have arisen and begun to evolve – before DNA came along.
When the first multicellular organisms evolved, their cells needed to communicate with each other to control their growth and development.
The deposition of misfolded proteins is a central characteristic of many devastating diseases including neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and prion diseases. In principle, improving the cells’ ability to deal with misfolded proteins should reduce the pathology in these diverse neurodegenerative diseases.
The first X-ray crystal structure of the motor domain of cytoplasmic dynein, a protein that uses the cellular energy from ATP to walk along microtubule tracks that run throughout the cell, has been solved.
Cytoplasmic dynein moves numerous cargos around the cell including proteins and RNAs that set up the cell polarity, membraneous organelles, aggregated proteins that are toxic unless collected and disposed of, and even whole nuclei.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is caused by the progressive dysfunction of specific nerve cells that control muscle movement. It belongs to a group of devastating neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and prion diseases. Each disease is caused by the progressive accumulation of specific proteins in an aberrant, misfolded shape. The formation of the protein deposits is somehow toxic to nerve cells but why and how they initially form is unclear.
A group led by KJ Patel from the LMB, together with collaborators at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and CRUK Cambridge Research Institute (CRI), have developed the first model for the human genetic illness Fanconi Anaemia (FA). This genetic condition results in abnormal development, bone marrow failure and a huge lifetime risk of developing cancer. At present the only long-term treatment for FA is bone marrow transplantation.