Newswise — BUFFALO, N.Y., August 5, 2021 -- Amyloid plaques, which are a type of protein deposit, and protein aggregates, known as neurofibrillary tangles, are trademark indications of Alzheimer's disease. Because there is no ethical way to extract brain tissue from patients to look for clues about how these plaques and tangles proliferate, supplementary techniques are needed to better understand the progression of Alzheimer's disease.

During the American Crystallographic Association's 71st annual meeting, Structural Science Awakens, which will be held virtually July 30-Aug. 5, Abdullah Al Bashit, from Northeastern University, will discuss using state-of-the-art computational techniques to help address these challenges. His presentation, "Classification of tissue variations in X-ray scanning microdiffraction from thin sections of human brain," will take place Thursday, Aug 5. at 1:38 p.m. Eastern.

"The brain is heterogeneous in structure at every possible length scale, from molecular to cellular to entire regions of the brain," said Bashit. "Tracking pathological changes that occur at the molecular level across this heterogeneous tissue requires computational tools that can cope with the vast complexity of the brain."

Though neuropathologists can locate amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, Bashit's work demonstrates how the use of both small and wide-angle scattering along with state-of-the-art detection techniques will help probe their molecular structure and proliferation.

Additionally, coupling these with improvements to computational methodologies, like machine learning algorithms and better analysis methods, can lead to a better understanding of how Alzheimer's disease progresses.

"Understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying disease progression may provide a basis for designing therapies that could slow or halt neurodegeneration," Bashit said.

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ABOUT AMERICAN CRYSTALLOGRAPHIC ASSOCIATION

The American Crystallographic Association, Inc. is a nonprofit, scientific organization of more than 1,000 members in more than 35 countries. The ACA was founded in 1949 through a merger of the American Society for X-Ray and Electron Diffraction (ASXRED) and the Crystallographic Society of America (CSA). The objective of the ACA is to promote interactions among scientists who study the structure of matter at atomic (or near atomic) resolution. These interactions will advance experimental and computational aspects of crystallography and diffraction. Understanding the nature of the forces that both control and result from the molecular and atomic arrangements in matter will help shed light on chemical interactions in nature.

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