Tiny protein structures called amyloids are key to understanding certain devastating age-related diseases. Aggregates, or sticky clumped-up amyloids, form plaques in the brain, and are the main culprits in the progression of Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s diseases.
Amyloids are so tiny that they can’t be visualized using conventional microscopic techniques. A team of engineers at Washington University in St. Louis has developed a new technique that uses temporary fluorescence, causing the amyloids to flash, or “blink,” and allowing researchers to better spot these problematic proteins.
“It has been pretty difficult, finding a way to image them in a non-invasive way — not changing the way they come together — and also figuring out a way to image them long-term to see how they clump and form larger structures,” said Matthew Lew, assistant professor in the Preston M. Green Department of Electrical & Systems Engineering at the School of Engineering & Applied Science. “That was the focus of our research.”