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In this issue:
Untangling a Sticky Situation to Save Lives
Science Today: Steps Toward Understanding Autism
Reminder: All Hands Safety Expo Today
The Ground Beneath Our Feet

SLAC Today

Thursday - October 11, 2007

Untangling a Sticky Situation to Save Lives

A bundle of actin filaments (blue) held electrostatically to lysozyme (orange), as obtained from x-ray diffraction experiments (diffraction pattern, background).

Scientists working in part at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory (SSRL) have found new clues as to why the body's own natural antimicrobials are often are powerless against bacterial infections associated with cystic fibrosis. Using SSRL Beamline 4-2, a team led by professor Gerard Wong of the University of Illinois found that, in the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients, infected mucus molecules form ordered bundles that trap the antimicrobials, rendering them useless.

"While not a cure, this work has potential as a therapeutic strategy against bacterial infections in cystic fibrosis,” said Wong.

Cystic fibrosis is an inherited chronic disease in which a defective gene causes the body to produce unusually thick, sticky mucus that clogs the lungs and can lead to life-threatening lung infections. Debris in the infected mucus includes negatively charged, long-chained molecules such as mucin, DNA and actin (from dead white blood cells). It turns out most of the body’s antimicrobials, such as lysozyme, are positively charged.  Read more...

(Daily Column - Science Today)

Steps Toward Understanding Autism

(Image - neuroligin-1/bb-neurexin complex)
A ribbon representation of the neuroligin-1/bb-neurexin complex.

Autism is considered among the most devastating neurological disorder conditions of early childhood. Now, researchers working in part at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory (SSRL) Beamline 4-2 have determined a three-dimensional structural model of a complex with the only two extracellular synaptic proteins implicated in autism spectrum disorders and mental retardation. Such a finding could deepen our understanding of this mysterious and debilitating type of disorder. The findings were published in the June 2007 edition of the journal Structure.

Many neurodevelopmental disorders involve abnormal synaptic function. Synapses provide essential connections between nerve cells in the brain that enable signals to be transmitted. Neurexin and neuroligins are proteins that associate in the extracellular space between synapses in the brain, and they appear to play a crucial role in maintaining the functionality of the brain's synaptic circuitry.

The research team combined small angle x-ray scattering data collected at SSRL with neutron solution scattering data to determine the molecular shapes of neuroligin and neurexin, which led to the creation of a model of the neurexin and neuroligin complex in the synaptic space. This new model provides an important structural framework for linking genetic information on mutated neurexins and neuroligins with neuro-developmental disorders.

More information about this research is available in SSRL Headlines.

Reminder: All Hands Safety Expo Today

Everyone in the SLAC community is asked to attend today's Annual Safety and Security Briefing.

Four 75-minute sessions will be held in SLAC's Panofsky Auditorium. In general, attendance broken down alphabetically ensures that everyone has a seat:
8:30 - 9:45 a.m.
    Last names starting A - F
10:30 - 11:45 a.m.
    Last names starting G - L
1:30 - 2:45 p.m.
    Last names starting M - R
3:30 - 4:45 p.m.
    Last names starting S - Z

Supervisors are expected to make the accommodations necessary for their staff to attend one of these sessions. Information about SLAC's Safety and Security Integrated Management Program will also be available at the expo tables set up in the Auditorium Lobby and Breezeway throughout the day.
Learn more...

The Ground Beneath Our Feet

(Photo - Geologists)
Last Saturday, 40 geologists explored SLAC's geological history, including the Whiskey Hill Formation near Sector 0, shown here.

Last Saturday, 40 members of the Society for Sedimentary Geology drove down Loop Road, passed through the Sector 30 gate, and arrived on the north side of the klystron gallery. Stretching before them, the earthen walls of the accelerator trench cut an enticing swath through the foothills, holding the secrets to a story that began more than 55 million years ago.

Led by geologists Susan Witebsky from SLAC's Environmental Protection Department and Ken Ehman of Chevron, the enthusiastic group of students, academic researchers and professional geologists explored SLAC's most exciting geological sites. 

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