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Research Zernike (ZIAM) Solid State Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Van der Wel Group

Van der Wel Group

Welcome to the website of the Van der Wel research group, since Aug. 2018 at the Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials of the University of Groningen. We specialize in state-of-the-art solid-state NMR (ssNMR) spectroscopy, which we use to probe in detail the structure and dynamics of various types of nano-sized assemblies. One biophysical focus of our research is studying the molecular causes of neurodegenerative diseases, and the role of protein misfolding, protein deposition, and mitochondrial protein-lipid interactions (see below). At the same time we also use similar methods to understand the structure-function relationships behind other non-biological assemblies.

Self-Assembling Nanomaterials

Self-assembly of smaller compounds and (macro)molecules into supramolecular assemblies allows for the production of nano-materials with various properties. Often, these processes rely on similar principles as the assembly of complexes in biology, leading to bio-mimetic materials. We use ssNMR to probe the structure of such nano-structures and thus help understand possible structure-based design principles.

Protein Misfolding & Huntington’s Disease

We use also ssNMR spectroscopy to structurally study the misfolding and self-assembly of proteins – the hallmarks of many neurodegenerative diseases. Integrating NMR with other biophysical techniques, we determine the structure of protein deposits and the mechanism of aggregate formation. For example, funded by the US NIH, we have been studying the misfolding of expanded polyglutamine proteins that are mutated in Huntington’s disease (HD) , ataxias and other diseases. Through our mechanistic and structural studies we further our understanding of the disease-causing processes to inform the design of new treatment strategies.

Mitochondrial Protein-Lipid Interactions in Apoptosis

We also study the interplay between lipid membranes and membrane - binding proteins . This is often a two-way process, where proteins modulate membrane structure and membranes modulate protein structure and function. In one NIH-funded research project, we have for example been investigating protein-lipid interactions that are critical in the early stages of mitochondrial apoptosis . Part of our interest in this process stems from the fact that it is plays a critical role in the neurodegeneration in HD and related diseases. Thus, we aim to obtain new mechanistic insights that may pave the way for possible new treatment strategies.

Advanced Solid-State NMR Spectroscopy

We also develop new methods in ssNMR for its biological application to supramolecular assemblies, protein aggregates, membranes and membrane proteins. We make use of  a range of different ssNMR methods, multidimensional MAS ssNMR, oriented ssNMR, as well as in silico simulations.

Questions? Interested in joining the lab, reprints or a collaboration? Contact us!

Last modified:29 January 2019 10.09 a.m.