Origami of the Cell: Diego Acosta-Alvear shows that blocking a critical enzyme helps to mitigate diseases associated with protein folding and lipid stress
In the ancient Japanese art of origami, paper must be folded precisely and following a specific order to create the desired result — say, a crane or lotus flower. It’s a complex pursuit that requires keen attention to detail and utmost accuracy. An equally precise biological process in living cells gives rise to proteins, the large biomolecules essential for life. Seeking to illuminate a piece of this biological puzzle, an international team of scientists, including UC Santa Barbara cell biologist Diego Acosta-Alvear, examined the role of a central UPR component, a stress sensor protein called IRE1 (inositol-requiring enzyme 1), in atherosclerosis. The researchers found that blocking IRE1 with a small molecule prevented the progression of atherosclerosis in mice. The findings appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.