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TANGO: towards faster prognosis of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases?

Brussels A large number of diseases - including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and mad cow disease - are the result of proteins that erroneously assume the wrong shape, causing them to stick to each other. This phenomenon is perceptible, but up to now it has been difficult to predict. Researchers from the Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology (VIB) at the Free University of Brussels (VUB), in collaboration with a German research group, have developed TANGO - a statistical method that can predict the susceptibility of proteins to sticking together. Thus, for the first time, TANGO enables the prediction of risky protein alterations that underlie this group of diseases.

When protein structure goes awry

All living creatures, including humans, are made up of cells, and the vital functions within these cells are executed by proteins. The hereditary information for the production of proteins - including, among other things, their structure and length - is contained in our genes. But in order to be able to function properly, a protein must also fold itself correctly into its 3-dimensional structure. Sometimes this goes wrong and the proteins stick together, making them toxic and causing diseases like Alzheimer's.

TANGO makes prediction of faulty protein structures possible

Until recently, it was always thought that proteins stick together arbitrarily. But now it has become clear that a universal mechanism lies behind this process. Certain structural characteristics in proteins determine their susceptibility to sticking together. Using this information, Joost Schymkowitz and Frederic Rousseau have developed TANGO, a mathematical algorithm that looks at a large amount of data - including alterations of the protein and environmental factors - to indicate the degree of probability that particular proteins will stick together.

TANGO thus opens possibilities for new diagnostic techniques for diseas
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Contact: Sooike Stoops
sooike.stoops@vib.be
32-9-244-6611
VIB, Flanders Interuniversity Institute of Biotechnology
13-Sep-2004


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