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Insight into Alzheimer’s, cancer, anemia gleaned from ribosome research

Groundbreaking study of the human ribosome reveals tiny molecular machine is more versatile than previously understood
December 22, 2014
The newly discovered rolling movement shown in (A) three-dimensional cryo-electron microscopy image of ribosome, and (B) computer-generated atomic-resolution model of the human ribosome consistent with microscopy.

Figure 3. The newly discovered rolling movement shown in (A) three-dimensional cryo-electron microscopy image of ribosome, and (B) computer-generated atomic-resolution model of the human ribosome consistent with microscopy. A). Arrows indicate the direction of movement during transition between the two different states. B). Ribbons represent backbone of RNA and protein molecules within the ribosome. Color bar indicates the amount of motion during rolling.

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“Cracking the mechanism of human ribosomes will have applications to a variety of diseases, so we are now seeing the real payoff of over a decade of computer simulations of the ribosome,” Sanbonmatsu said.

Insight into Alzheimer’s, cancer, anemia gleaned from ribosome research

A groundbreaking study of the human ribosome by an international team of researchers, including scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory, is revealing that the tiny molecular machine is far more versatile than previously understood.

Minor changes in its sequencing can change its operation, allowing it to adapt to a changing environment.

From a practical standpoint, these first studies of the atomistic mechanism of the human ribosome open a window into a range of diseases, from anemia, to cancer, to Alzheimer's disease.

For more than a decade, Los Alamos has been successfully involved in applying computational approaches for modeling the structure and dynamic aspects of large and biologically important molecular machines such as the ribosome.

Cracking the mechanism of human ribosomes could eventually aid health research, including enhancing the efficacy of antibiotics, about 50 percent of which target ribosomes; in addition, malformed human ribosomes are related to many different human diseases.

It is within the ribosome, found in all living cells, that proteins are created, making the ribosome one of life's most fundamental machines.


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