The nucleation processes stand at the core of multiple reactions on a chemical and physical scale. Hence, they can be observed in cloud and bubble formation as well as in some preliminary disease stages, such as Type 2 diabetes or Alzheimer’s.
A group of researchers from University College London together with scientists from the University of Cambridge gathered enough data to conclude that understanding how nucleation processes work could prevent serious diseases.
Scientists define nucleation processes as the first step of liquid matter transitioning to a gas mass. In short, the fact that water can change its structural arrangement and morph into a completely different element represents the working mechanism of the nucleation processes. In turn, these rearrangements cause new thermodynamic phases to form before the first ones have enough time to grow. Understanding the nucleation processes will have many implications in the future, treating human degenerative diseases and nanotechnology being only two of the most important focuses.
Anđela Šarić, the lead co-author of the study uses a dinner party example to make people better understand how nucleation processes work. She says that nucleation is similar to a quiet dinner party suddenly transforming into a dancing competition. For this to happen, there needs to be several individuals to act as “nucleus” around which everything starts to come together. Ultimately, the quiet evening turns into a full-blown party with multiple, if not all individuals taking part in the activity.
However, in order to put the understanding of nucleation processes to good use, the scientists need to look at the phenomenon from a structural point of view. One example of a nucleated process is the development of protein threads. Today, the scientists associate over 50 with the erratic development of protein filaments in the brain or other vital organs. The list includes Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes.
Apart from being a key component in the nucleation processes, the protein filaments can also be used in other areas such as nanotechnology or further development of biomaterials.
Moreover, early stages of many degenerative diseases revolve around wrongful protein gathering. Researchers believe that the protein fiber clusters are the main cause for cellular toxicity which stands at the core of human diseases. By studying and consequently understanding more about the nucleation processes on a molecular level, Anđela Šarić hopes to design specific therapies for serious diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Type 2 diabetes in the near future.
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