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New Rice Research Project ‘Crucial for Developing Effective Treatments’ for Amyloid Diseases Such Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s

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A team of Rice University researchers led by Angel Martí, professor and chair of chemistry and professor of bioengineering, materials science and nanoengineering, was awarded a $1.875 million grant by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support its groundbreaking research in biological fibrillar nanostructures with potential implications for the treatment and diagnosis of diseases including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

“Understanding the structure and behavior of biological nanostructures is crucial for developing effective treatments,” Martí said. “Our research aims to provide new insights into these structures, which could ultimately lead to more targeted and efficient therapies.”

Fibrillar nanostructures are essential components in nature, playing critical roles in information storage, communication, structure and even pathology within organisms. However, studying these structures presents significant challenges due to their complex nature and the lack of suitable analytical tools.

Traditional techniques often yield inconsistent or inaccurate results, particularly in amyloid structures or misfolded protein assemblies found in diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s due to their role in protein aggregation.

Martí’s research team will develop advanced photochemical and photophysical strategies to analyze these nanostructures in unprecedented detail. His team has already made significant strides in this field, including the development of metal complexes for sensing amyloids using fluorescence spectroscopy and the identification of molecular binding sites within amyloid-β, a key player in Alzheimer’s.

The research program also seeks to uncover where molecules bind to different types of amyloids and other fibrous structures, understand how tightly these molecules are bound and figure out the best way to use time-resolved spectroscopy to see how molecules bind to different sites simultaneously.

An estimated 6.7 million Americans age 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s, while approximately 500,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s, according to the NIH.

Given that many individuals are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, the actual number is likely much higher with some experts estimating that as many as 1 million Americans have Parkinson’s.

“This work is crucial, considering the widespread impact of these diseases,” Martí said. “We are enthusiastic about our research’s potential to transform our understanding of their mechanisms.”

Martí obtained his Ph.D. in 2004 from the University of Puerto Rico, where he held the NSF Graduate Teaching Fellowship in K-12 Education and NIH-RISE fellowship. In 2004, Martí joined Nicholas Turro’s research group at Columbia University as a postdoctoral research scientist. Martí joined Rice in July 2008.

His research group at Rice has published more than 125 academic journal articles, including more than 15 papers in biological nanostructures.

This grant is administered by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (1R35GM152038-01). The content in this press release is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.

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Schedule30 May 2024