SAXSpoint leads to research success
2021-03-16 | Corporate
MedUni Graz researches molecular processes responsible for the development of cataracts.
As the Medical University of Graz announced last week, researchers working with international partners have succeeded in finding out which molecular processes in the body are responsible for the development of cataracts. So far, it was assumed that it was a malformation of lens proteins. However, according to the research team, the cause is an age-related shift in the balance of those lens proteins. The breakthrough was achieved not least because of the SAXSpoint system from Anton Paar.
Research into the most common eye disease of the elderly
Cataract is an eye disease in which the otherwise clear lens becomes cloudy. As a result, vision progressively decreases. Mostly, cataracts occur at an advanced age. It is the most common eye disease of elderly people. A molecular characteristic of cataracts is the pathological clumping of the highly concentrated, solute proteins of the lens of the eye. Because the lens proteins are formed already in the embryo and not replaced, this clumping leads to an increasingly clouding of the lens with increasing age.
Together with an international collegium, MedUni scientists have been able to elucidate a fundamental mechanism responsible for the clumping of lens proteins. “Contrary to the prevailing assumption, we have found that the clumping is not caused by a decrease in protective alpha-crystallin proteins,” Tobias Madl, Gottfried Schatz Research Center at MedUni Graz, described the first surprising result. Therefore, the composition and opacity of the eye lenses of young and aging mice with and without a predisposition to cataracts were examined. Using small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) and other methods, the researchers observed that the balance of the three most common proteins in the lens that developed cataracts - alpha, beta and gamma crystalline - was particularly disturbed.
New treatment strategy as a research goal
“With the help of the SAXS method, we were even able to elucidate the internal structure of crystallins in intact eye lenses for the first time. With this, we have developed a technology that makes it possible to investigate the exact mode of action of cataract therapeutics and perhaps offer alternatives to surgery. The development on active substances based on this will still be a long way off, but our results show that basic research provides essential impulses for innovations,” Tobias Madl says, looking ahead.
The research results were published in the renowned scientific journal ‘Nature Structural & Molecular Biology’. The authors dedicate special thanks in the publication to the SAXS team of Anton Paar, in particular Franz Pirolt (co-author, until 2021 at AP, note) and Heike Ehmann for the performance and technical support of SAXS experiments on intact eye lenses as well as the production of a special sample holder for eye lenses.