Protein prof tackles sticky plaque

A Missouri S&T chemical engineer is doing his part to prevent or cure neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or Mad Cow. These diseases all have one common element — amyloid plaque deposits. But they are all made up of different proteins.

Daniel Forciniti

Daniel Forciniti is working to stop neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s. (Photo by B.A. Rupert)

Daniel Forciniti, professor of chemical and biological engineering, and his team are working to find a way to make various proteins create amyloid deposits in conditions that mimic the human body. Through the study, the researchers are also working to better understand what types of structures encourage plaque formation.
Nearly 15 years ago, Forciniti’s group began studying how proteins and peptides behave when they are near a solid surface — such as when a protein in blood is near the inner surface of a vein. “We have developed considerable expertise in both theoretical and experimental studies of proteins at solid-liquid interfaces,” he says. “The transition to the study of the effect of surfaces, such as tissue, on the formation of protein aggregates was a natural one.”
While the debate over what causes these diseases continues, it’s commonly accepted that an abnormal buildup of these protein deposits on the surface of the brain, also known as amyloid deposits or plaques, are found in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Scientists have been able to trick proteins into creating amyloid plaques, but only in extremely acidic and high-temperature environments. That situation is vastly different from what occurs in the human body, Forciniti says.
“They subject these proteins to harsh conditions at unrealistically high concentrations,” Forciniti says. For example, these proteins may be immersed in a 3 pH solution, significantly more acidic than a human body’s pH of 7.5. Instead of using nanomoles of peptides, as is found in the brain, millimoles of peptides are used.
Forciniti and his colleagues are working to develop a way to create these proteins in an environment that is closer to that of the human body.

Around the Puck

Seeking TBI therapies

By Delia Croessmann, croessmannd@mst.edu Complications from TBI can be life altering. They include post-traumatic seizures and hydrocephalus, as well as serious cognitive and psychological impairments, and the search for treatments to mitigate these neurodegenerative processes is on.

[Read More...]

Understanding the invisible injury

Students advance traumatic brain injury research By Sarah Potter, sarah.potter@mst.edu “Research is creating new knowledge.”–Neil Armstrong  Research keeps professors on the vanguard of knowledge in their fields and allows students to gain a deeper understanding of their area of study. For students and recent graduates researching traumatic brain injury (TBI) at Missouri S&T, the work […]

[Read More...]

Analyzing small molecules for big results

By Delia Croessmann, croessmannd@mst.edu At only 28 years old, Casey Burton, Chem’13, PhD Chem’17, director of medical research at Phelps Health in Rolla and an adjunct professor of chemistry at Missouri S&T, is poised to become a prodigious bioanalytical researcher.

[Read More...]

To prevent and protect

By Peter Ehrhard, ehrhardp@mst.edu Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are an unfortunate but all too common occurrence during military training and deployment. Because mild TBIs often present no obvious signs of head trauma or facial lacerations, they are the most difficult to diagnose at the time of the injury, and patients often perceive the impact as […]

[Read More...]

Q&A

Toughest class … ever Some of your classes may have been a breeze, but others kept you up at all hours studying, and some of you struggled just to pass. As part of his research for the S&T 150th anniversary history book, Larry Gragg , Curators’ Distinguished Teaching Professor emeritus of history and political science, asked […]

[Read More...]