Seven innovative technologies from Berkeley Lab have been honored with a 2022 R&D 100 Award. Biosciences Area researchers contributed to two different products that were awarded.
A technology developed by Cynthia McMurray, a senior scientist in the Molecular Biophysics and Integrated Bioimaging Division, and her team shows great promise for diagnosing Alzheimer disease before symptoms arise. This disease affects millions of people worldwide and is estimated to be the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
The mutant form of the Huntington gene, mHTT, which encodes a product that causes the disease, is expressed throughout the brain in affected individuals. Yet neurons in individual regions of the brain are differentially susceptible to its neurotoxic effects. The basis for this puzzling region-specific vulnerability in Huntington disease—which is likewise a feature of Alzheimer and Parkinson neurodegenerative diseases—was hitherto unknown.
A new study led by Cynthia McMurray, a senior scientist in Molecular Biophysics and Integrated Bioimaging (MBIB), provides evidence that regional differences in neuronal susceptibility to Huntington disease can be attributed to substrate-driven metabolic reprogramming strategies adopted by astrocytes in response to low glucose. The team recently reported their findings in the journal Cell Metabolism.
Biosciences’ Cynthia McMurray and Mike Martin of the Advanced Light Source (ALS) are spearheading an effort to develop a noninvasive, label-free technique to probe living cells in their native environments to aid in biological and medical research. By shining highly focused infrared light—which doesn’t damage or otherwise alter the cells—they hope to be able to distinguish features within cells and identify individual cell types by their unique spectral signatures. McMurray, a senior scientist in Molecular Biophysics and Integrated Bioimaging (MBIB), and Martin, photon science operations group lead at the ALS, received a round of seed money earlier this year to support their effort, dubbed “spectral phenotyping.” An Aug. 8 news article in the journal Science highlighted their work and that of the larger Human Cell Atlas project that aims to provide “a unique ID card for each cell type,” as well as a 3D map of how cells form tissues, and new insights into disease.
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Biosciences’ Cynthia McMurray was recently quoted in a Nature Outlook article on the gaps in our understanding of the biology that underlies Huntington’s disease. In the piece, McMurray, a senior scientist in Molecular Biophysics and Integrated Bioimaging (MBIB), discusses possible mechanisms that give rise to the abnormal expansion of the DNA sequence cytosine, adenine, and guanine (CAG), potential functions of the huntingtin protein in cells, and the theory that chains of glutamine (encoded by CAG) make huntingtin extra sticky.
View the article as a PDF.