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Tiny droplets in cells can accelerate the accumulation of protein deposits in diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, but they can also hinder this accumulation. While they will worsen the accumulation if the proteins stick to the edge of the droplets, the situation actually improves when they are incorporated into the droplets. Chemists from Radboud University and the University of Twente are set to publish their new findings in Science Advances on December 2.
Molecules do not just bob around inside our cells. We know for about a decade now that many molecules form tiny droplets in our cells. These droplets are formed by a chemical process called phase separation. "It's just like oil in water," explains researcher Brent Visser. "The only difference is that these droplets usually consist of a complex mix of large molecules that are found in the cell, such as RNA and proteins."