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The research, published in Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, could provide new insights into diseases in which normal cell fusion is disrupted, such as Albers-Schönberg disease (osteopetrosis), help facilitate the development of fusion-based cell therapies for degenerative diseases, and lead to treatments that prevent cell-to-cell fusion between cancer cells and non-cancer cells.
When two cells combine during fertilization, or a membrane-bound vesicle fuses during viral entry, neuron signaling, placental development and many other physiological functions, the semi-permeable membrane bilayers between the fusing partners must be merged to exchange their internal contents. As the two membranes approach each other, hydration forces increase exponentially, which requires a significant amount of energy for the membranes to overcome. Mapping the distribution of water molecules is key to understanding the fusion process.
Researchers - Neutron - Scattering - EQ-SANS - Instrument
Researchers used the small-angle neutron scattering (EQ-SANS) instrument at ORNL's Spallation Neutron Source and the biological small-angle neutron scattering (Bio-SANS) instrument at the High Flux Isotope Reactor, both of which can probe structures as small as a few nanometers in size.
"We used neutrons to probe our samples, because water typically can't be seen by x-rays, and because other imaging techniques can't...
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