IRB investigates the disposal mechanisms of damaged proteins


Institutional Communication Service

27 November 2019

Humans cells select, through the endoplasmic reticulum, the damaged proteins that must be destroyed quickly to avoid their accumulation, which is toxic to our organism. How does this disposal occur, and what happens when there is an excessive accumulation of waste proteins? A research group at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB, affiliated to USI), led by biologist Maurizio Molinari, is investigating this "waste emergency" present in the human body.

At the Protein Folding and Quality Control laboratory, Dr. Molinari and his team of researchers have investigated how our body reacts to the disposal of damaged proteins, which tend to accumulate and block the mechanism, either because of excess production (as happens in children with metabolic diseases by accumulation), or because the disposal system is not efficient (typcially in older individuals). By recreating this emergency situation within mammalian cells grown in test tubes, the researchers have analysed in detail this process of production, storage and disposal, as well as the methods put in place by the body to manage crisis situations.

The findings of this research are published in Nature Communications and may prove valuable for the diagnosis and treatment of many rare diseases and, potentially, also for those neurodegenerative diseases that affect the brain, such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, as Dr. Molinari explains in the full interview (in Italian) available at