December 16, 2013
Alzheimer’s Protein Could Lead To Next-Generation Of Nanomaterials
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
The amyloid protein, known for causing diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, may be the next big nanomaterial. Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology found the amyloid protein could lead to the development of new composite materials for nano processors and data storage units of tomorrow, and could potentially even help create invisibility technology.
Amyloid fibers are best known as the plaque that gunks up neurons in individuals with neurodegenerative illnesses like Alzheimer’s and Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease. The fibers are often composed of prions-proteins that misfold and recruit neighboring proteins to misfold as well in a process known as conformational cascade.
The amyloid is a very dense aggregate of protein that reacts upon multi photon laser irradiation, unlike well-functioning protein. As a result, researchers may one day be able to detect amyloids inside a human brain, which itself is a breakthrough discovery.
“But you can also create these aggregates in an artificial way in a laboratory and in combination with other materials create unique characteristics,” explained Piotr Hanczyc, PhD student at the department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and lead author of the paper.
The amyloid aggregates are as hard and rigid as steel, with the steel being much heavier and more defined whereas amyloids can be tuned for desired purposes. Hanczyc showed that by attaching a material’s molecules to the dense amyloid, its characteristics change.
“What hasn’t been known is that the amyloids react to multi-photon irradiation and this opens up new possibilities to also change the nature of the material attached to the amyloids,” Hanczyc said.
When a material merges with a disc, its molecules end up so densely and regularly arranged that they can communicate and exchange information. The research also shows totally new possibilities exist to change a material’s characteristics.
Hanczyc says he sees there could be opportunities for cooperation with Chamlers material science researchers interested in solar cell technology in order to perform multi-photon tests on materials tied to amyloids. He said he believes scientists may one day use the material properties of amyloid fibrils in the search for invisible metamaterials.
“An object’s ability to reflect light could be altered so that what’s behind it gets reflected instead of the object itself, in principle changing the index of light refraction, kind of like when light hits the surface of water,” Hanczyc said.