(May 8, 2019) – Dysfunctions and malformations in the scaffold of a cell are thought to contribute to heart muscle weakness, neurodegenerative disease and even deafness. Now biophysics research at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) has taken a closer look at a cell’s cytoskeleton and found a new purpose: It aids in energy transfer and information processing in neurons.
Marcelo Marucho, an associate professor in the UTSA Department of Physics and Astronomy, studies, in particular, the cytoskeleton’s actin filaments and microtubules for the past 4 years. He works to track how the transfer of energy along these structures impacts cellular function.
The research proposes that structural changes in the filaments (mutations) and alteration in the biological fluids break down the equilibrium and competition between the molecular mechanisms that dominate the bundling and transmission properties of cytoskeleton filaments in normal conditions. This, in turn, yields impaired assembly and defective electric signal propagation along these filaments leading to cellular pathology.
Age and hereditary factors are known to contribute to the development of diseases, however Marucho’s research provides insight into how the cytoskeleton’s electrical properties contribute to the degradation of a cell.
“There is evidence that filaments conduct electricity, like an electrical cord,” said Marucho, who combines both biology and physics to understand what he calls the bionanowire—a cell’s electrical cable. “The filaments, F-Actin and microtubules, are able to propagate electrical impulses inside neurons. This property is something that scientists generally haven’t considered.”
The cell’s cytoskeleton, or filaments, are responsible for a cell’s shape. They also organize cellular parts and impact a cell’s movement and division. But Marucho believes that cells cytoskeleton filaments are also capable of conducting electrical energy.
The UTSA researcher developed multi-scale models with patch clamp and light scattering experiments to determine how electricity spreads and how it affects the mechanical properties of filaments. These preliminary results will help him better understand the normal conditions that allow the cell’s bionanowire to develop.
“We also want to elucidate how the pH solution, salts including amount and type, generate the correct healthy formation of cytoskeleton structures,” said Marucho. “Biological fluid is a necessary medium to mediate the interactions between cytoskeleton filaments.”
In total, Dr. Marucho was awarded $1.5 million in research funding over four years from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to continue his work on Actin filaments and to look more in-depth at microtubules.
This NIH grant is part of a banner year for research dollars at UTSA. In FY 2018 alone, UTSA’s total research and development expenditures reached $69.7 million.
Learn more about the Marucho Lab.
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This photo exhibit explores the history and tradition behind the Mexican drink.UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures, Hemisfair Campus
UTSA faculty, staff and students are invited to attend open forums featuring the three finalist candidates for the position of vice president for the Office of Research, Economic Development and Knowledge Enterprise.Various locations, Main and Downtown Campuses
This year’s Symposium will focus on Operational Command and Control in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Tickets are $60 for Admiral Nimitz Foundation Members and $70 for non-members.Student Union Retama Auditorium (SU 2.02.02), Main Campus
The NSA Codebreaker Challenge provides students with a hands-on opportunity to develop their reverse-engineering, low-level code analysis skills while working on a realistic problem set centered around the NSA’s mission. Developer Eric Bryant will present a Tech Talk and answer questions about the challenge. Doors open at 2:30 p.m. Free pizza. Open to all.John Peace Library (JPL 4.04.22), Main Campus
UTSA's Office of Sustainability hosts a full day of activities to celebrate the opening of the Tito Bradshaw Bicycle Repair Shop. A ribbon-cutting at 6 p.m.will include President Eighmy, Mayor Nirenberg, Councilman Pelaez and Councilwoman Gonzales.Ximenes Ave. between Ximenes Ave. Lot and Brackenridge Ave. Lot 1, Main Campus
Annual symposium to highlight the importance of effective translation and interpreting in our global community.H-E-B Student Union Travis Room (HSU 2.202), Main Campus
The UTSA Institute for Law and Public Affairs and the Southwest Association of Prelaw Advisors will host the annual Law School Fair for students interested in attending law school. Attendees will have the opportunity to meet with representatives from approximately 90 ABA approved law schools (including all law schools in Texas), and learn about admissions, financing, course offerings, student life, program reputation, with the opportunity to gain application fee waivers.H-E-B Student Union, Ballroom (HSU 1.104), Main Campus
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