A new Rice University study uses computer simulations to explore the initial steps of the molecular process that leads to Alzheimer’s disease.
The disease starts by the aggregation of a common protein called amyloid beta. The Rice study is the first to model the energy landscape of the assembly of many copies of the pathogenic protein into its toxic form.
The research led by Professor Peter Wolynes of Rice’s Center for Theoretical Biological Physics is detailed this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Wolynes and his team are pioneers in the development of the energy landscape theory for proteins. All proteins start as chains of amino acids with their sequence determined by DNA, and each arrangement of the chain has a particular energy associated with it. The map of these energies and structures is called the energy landscape.