Human shock absorber `discovered`

Last Updated: Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - 12:04

Washington: In a pioneering research, scientists claim to have discovered human "shock absorber" which they say performs the same function in people as shock absorbers do in a car.

An international team, led by the University of Sydney, has, in fact, found the molecular structure in the body which functions as human "shock absorber", the `Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences` reported.

The scientists say the discovery of the molecule can be used on designing improved versions of a human blood vessel and on repairing skin damage, including burns, and can also be applied to treating cardiovascular disease and emphysema, a lung disease which primarily causes shortness of breath.

"This exciting discovery answers the mystery of how our bodies accommodate our living tissue without it being torn to shreds by its interaction with so many moving parts," said Professor Tony Weiss, who led the team.

In fact, the team dissected a key part of the molecule in elastin, the protein that keeps tissues such as skin, lungs and blood vessels elastic during normal processes such as body movement, breathing and blood circulation.

Using a high-powered combination of synchronised X-ray beams and elastin synthesis tools, the team discovered that human elastin contains a molecular bridge or "shock absorber".

"This tiny shock absorber neatly connects specialised molecular parts -- one part is dedicated to elasticity and another part dedicated to binding living tissue.

"It performs the same function for humans at a molecular level as shock absorbers do in a car; we can enjoy a smooth ride as they keep the body of the car from being violently rattled by the movement of the wheels," Weiss said.

The team now has sufficient information to change just a billionth of a metre of the molecular bridge, which would result in dramatic changes to the elastin. The abnormal protein produced an elastin which looks and behaves differently to normal elastin, say the scientists.

"This finding will benefit our work on designing artificial blood vessels that use replicas of human elastin, to repair and replace human blood vessels, with implications for the treatment of cardiovascular disease.

"In the future it may have applications in treating emphysema, which is caused by destruction to lung elastin," Weiss said in a release.

PTI



First Published: Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - 12:04

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