Conformational isomers and the brain

Heino Prinz heino.prinz at mpi-dortmund.mpg.de
Thu Jan 19 09:46:51 EST 1995

In article <01-17-1995.44561 at harfang>, guy at harfang.login.qc.ca (Guy Tremblay) says:
>        I read an article in the January '95 issue of Scientific American 
>about PRIONS (proteinaceous infectious particle) disease. These new kinds 
>of diseases are caused by conformational isomers of proteins present in 
>the brain. These proteins, besides being pathogenic, are able to induce 
>other proteins to adopt the same destructive conformation.
>        I must say I was quite impressed by the discovery. I have a simple 
>question: Is it possible that conformational isomers could be information
>storing systems for the brain? Is it possible that these isomers would 
>have been unnoticed by researchers? There exists no "conformational 
>isomers detectors"... yet. Is it possible that proteins could be the brain 
>RAM ( or ROM...) or am I totally out of it?

Yes, of course such a thing might be possible. But it would require a 
mechanism by which different isomers are formed or modulated in the
process of developing long-term memory. I think that it is unlikely that 
such a mechanism has escaped detection so far.

Still, I think it might be an exiting new area of research. In order to do it 
properly, one has to develop the tools of protein chemistry in these lipid-
water interfaces. - Not an easy task!


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