George Thurston


Contact Information

OfficeGOS 3300
Phone(585) 475-4549

Professional Interests:

Biological and chemical physics. Experimental and theoretical study of phase transitions in concentrated aqueous protein solutions, in micellar and microemulsion solutions, and in lipid monolayers and bilayers. Physical and chemical basis of protein condensation diseases including cataract and sickle cell disease. Light scattering, X-ray scattering, neutron scattering and computational studies of complex fluids. Light scattering methods for early detection and quantitation of cataract.

Research Interests

In cataract, the leading cause of blindness worldwide, concentrated mixtures of eye lens proteins can undergo liquid-liquid phase separation, and can also aggregate so as to scatter light, clouding the lens and degrading vision. Chemical inhibition of the responsible interprotein interactions could, in principle, delay visual impairment from cataract. To make an informed search for cataract inhibitors, it is important to understand the molecular basis of eye lens protein solution phenomena.

My current aims are to help develop the needed basic understanding of realistically concentrated fluid mixtures of eye lens proteins, including their phase transitions, equations of state, light scattering, and aggregation kinetics. My colleagues and I are using static and quasielastic light scattering, small-angle X-ray scattering and neutron scattering, Monte-Carlo simulation, and statistical thermodynamic models to develop this understanding.

Selected Publications

Blankschtein D, Thurston GM Benedek GB, Phenomenological Theory of Equilibrium Properties and Phase Separation of Micellar Solutions, J. Chem. Phys. 85, 7268-7288 (1986)

Thomson JA, Schurtenberger P, Thurston GM, Benedek GB, Binary Liquid Phase Separation and Critical Phenomena in a Protein-Water Solution, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 84, 7079-7083 (1987)

Schurtenberger P, Chamberlin RA, Thurston GM, Thomson JA, Benedek GB, Observation of Critical Phenomena in a Protein-Water Solution, Phys. Rev. Letts. 63, 2064-2067 (1989)

Liu C-W, Lomakin A, Thurston GM, Hayden DL, Pande A, Pande J, Ogun O, Asherie N, Benedek GB, Phase Separation in Multicomponent Aqueous-protein Solutions, J. Phys. Chem. 99, 451-461 (1995).

Thurston GM, Hayden DL, Burrows P, Clark JI, Taret VG, Kandel J, Courogen M, Peetermans JA, Bowen MS, Miller D, Sullivan KM, Storb R, Stern H, Benedek GB, Evidence for increased interprotein association as a function of age in the living human lens using quasielastic light scattering, Current Eye Research 16, 197-207 (1997).

Cohen DE, Thurston GM, Chamberlin RA, Benedek GB, Carey MC, Laser light scattering evidence for "worm-like" mixed micelles in cholanoyl (bile salt) and acyl (octylglucoside) detergent-long chain phosphatidylcholine (lecithin) aqueous systems: New insights on the structure of bile, Biochemistry 37, 14798-14814 (1998).

Benedek, GB, Pande, J, Thurston GM, Clark JI, Theoretical and Experimental Basis for the Inhibition of Cataract, Progress in Retinal and Eye Research 18, 391-402 (1999).

Stradner, A., Thurston GM, and Schurtenberger P, “Tuning short-range attractions in protein solutions: from attractive glasses to equilibrium clusters.” J. Phys.: Condens. Matter 17: 1-12 (2005). Selected for J. Phys. Cond. Matter Top Papers Showcase 2005,

Thurston, GM, “Liquid-liquid Phase Separation and Static Light Scattering of Concentrated Ternary Mixtures of Bovine Alpha and GammaB Crystallins,” Journal of Chemical Physics, 124, 134909 (2006).

J. Bloustine, T. Virmani, G. M. Thurston, and S. Fraden, “Light Scattering and Phase Behavior of Lysozyme-Poly(Ethylene Glycol) Mixtures, ”  Physical Review Letters 96, 087803 (2006).

A. Stradner, G. Foffi, N. Dorsaz, G. M. Thurston, and P. Schurtenberger, “New insight into cataract formation:  enhanced stability through mutual attraction”, Physical Review Letters, 99 (19): Art. No. 198103 (2007). Subject of Physical Review Focus News Article,

Thurston, GM, “Protein Anisotropy Turns Solubility on its Head,” Invited Commentary, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 104:18877-18878 (2007),

David S. Ross, G. M. Thurston and C.V. Lutzer, “On a partial differential equation method for determining the free energies and coexisting phase compositions of ternary mixtures from light scattering data,” J. Chem. Phys. 129, 064106 (2008).

N. Dorsaz, G. M. Thurston, A. Stradner, P. Schurtenberger and G. Foffi, “Colloidal Characterization and Thermodynamic Stability of Binary Eye Lens Protein Mixtures, J. Phys. Chem. B 113:1693-1709 (2009) (published online Dec. 10, 2008). Selected for J. Phys. Chem. B. Cover Illustration.

N. Dorsaz, G. M. Thurston, A. Stradner, P. Schurtenberger, and G. Foffi, "Phase separation in binary eye lens protein mixtures,"  Soft Matter (online 11/22/10 | doi:10.1039/C0SM00156B)

Dawn Hollenbeck, K. Michael Martini, Andreas Langner, Anthony Harkin, David S. Ross, and George M. Thurston, "Model for evaluating patterned charge-regulation contributions to electrostatic interactions between low-dielectric spheres," Physical Review E 82, 031402 (2010).

P. R. Banerjee, A. Pande, J. Patrosz, G. M. Thurston, and J. Pande, "Cataract-associated mutant E107A of human γD-crystallin shows increased attraction to α-crystallin and enhanced light scattering," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(2): 574-579 (2011); doi: 10.1073/pnas.1014653107. Commentary: N. Asherie, "Blind attraction: The mechanism of an inherited congenital cataract," PNAS, 108(2): 437-438 (2011).

Chris W. Wahle, David S. Ross, and George M. Thurston, "On the design of experiments for determining ternary mixture free energies from static light scattering data using a nonlinear partial differential equation," J. Chem. Phys., to appear.

Chris W. Wahle, David S. Ross, and George M. Thurston, "Mathematical and Computational Aspects of Quaternary Liquid Mixing Free Energy Measurement Using Light Scattering," J. Chem. Phys., to appear.

Chris W. Wahle, David S. Ross, and George M. Thurston, "On inferring liquid-liquid phase boundaries and tie lines from ternary mixture light scattering," J. Chem. Phys., to appear.