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Ikonen, Elina: Centre of Excellence in Biomembrane Research: From Lipid-Protein Interactions to Functions, University of Helsinki

Researchers at the Centre of Excellence are working to establish the laws that govern the interplay between proteins and fats or lipids, the main components of cells. While the mechanism of membrane traffic has been successfully studied, very little is known about lipid-protein interactions. Lipid membranes both help and hinder interactions between proteins. In fact, the membrane environment may determine what function a protein is capable of performing, and which other proteins it communicates with. This is the mystery the CoE is investigating.

Researchers at the CoE are developing and using new techniques that will help shed light on these interactions. The tools that are used include imaging, biophysical and biochemical methods and mathematical modelling. The focus of the research is at the level of basic cellular mechanisms, and the study will not be limited to the treatment of any specific cell tissue, cell part or disease. The results of the work have implications in a wide range of fields. Indirectly, they can contribute to the development of new medical drugs and to understanding the mechanisms of, for example, cardiovascular and Alzheimer's diseases.

The research conducted at the CoE is supported by an extensive international network with researchers in the field. The CoE is now in the position to formulate broad research questions that no individual research team could tackle alone. The unit is divided into two groups: one team is studying cholesterol and the other team is studying actin, the most abundant protein in cells and responsible for forming support structures in cells. Furthermore, the theoretical physics and FiDiPro groups simulate nanoscale phenomena, such as interactions between molecule parts and atoms.

Last modified 19 Feb 2015
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