Protein hairpin and Parkinsonís disease


For centuries, millions of people around the globe have been troubled with a movement disorder that usually starts with a tremor in one hand. The disorder, later known as Parkinson's disease, affects commonly older individuals and disrupts patient's movement, sleep and speech from the brain. There is currently no cure for the disease. Key to the disease, progressively occurring in patient's brain, is the loss of neuron cells due to aggregation of a small protein named α-synuclein. Extensive studies have been carried out, yet the function of the protein remains a mystery. It is amazing that aggregation of such small proteins eventually leads to neuronal cell death and generates tremendous difficulties in peoples' life. In a recent report, a team of computational scientists attributed the cause of α-synuclein aggregation to a hairpin structure involving just a small region (amino acids 38-53) in the middle of the protein. With extensive simulations (over 180 μs in total), the researchers revealed that a short fragment encompassing region 38-53, exhibiting a high probability of forming a β-hairpin structure, is a key region during α-synuclein aggregation. Moreover, the researchers predicted a mutation that impedes β-hairpin formation, thereby retarding α-synuclein aggregation. The discoveries, made possible through the software NAMD and VMD, are expected to shed light on the mechanism underlying Parkinson's disease and to inspire the design of drugs.

More details on this work can be found in the full article:

1/16/2014 Lance Cooper

Sandia National Laboratories is now accepting applications for its Excellence in Science and Engineering Research Program, which will provide fellowships to University of Illinois doctoral students. The program encourages innovation in science-based, multidisciplinary research through support of outstanding domestic doctoral candidates in science and engineering who add diversity (especially from underrepresented groups) to their fields.

Sandia expects to offer two fellowships, and each fellowship will provide $45,000, to be used for stipend, mandatory fees, research supplies, and occasional travel to Sandia. The award is for one year, but may be renewed for two additional years at Sandia’s discretion.

Eligible students must be US citizens, must qualify for a security clearance, must have a graduate GPA of 3.5 or higher and an undergraduate GPA of 3.2 or higher, and must be two or three years away from obtaining a doctorate.

Applications from the following research areas are especially welcome:

-- Beyond Moore Computing
-- First to High-Yield Fusion
-- Engineering Materials Reliability
-- Trusted Systems and Communications
-- Detection at the Limit
-- Data Science
-- Cyber Resiliency
-- Science and Engineering of Quantum Information Systems (SEQIS)
-- Biological Systems Analysis and Engineering
-- Cognitive Science and Technologies
-- Resiliency in Complex Systems

Students do not apply directly. Instead, interested faculty members should submit a proposal (two pages maximum) directly to Sandia, with one or more eligible students identified therein. Details on the application process, as well as complete details on the fellowship program, can be found in the attached announcement. The application deadline is Monday, February 17, 2014.

If you have questions, please direct them to