Monday, December 3, 2018

New method for studying gene expression could improve understanding of brain disease

The brain contains millions and millions of neurons, many different types that most people do not realize. The more recent years of studying the brain have included classifying the different types of neurons, to be able to "understand how the brain works." Scientists are most interested in understanding the molecular distinction between the different types, in different species, to see if the cell types are different or similar in varying species, in order to be able to "identify cellular abnormalities."

A scientist, Nathaniel Heintz, suggests that neurons from a mouse are similar to those of a humans: as far as shape and size. However, the similarity may be hiding the true difference in function. In order to test this, Heintz and his team used "cell-specific antibodies to purify nuclei (of particular brain cells) to analyze which genes they expressed." The researchers discovered that human neurons expressed many genes and the mouse did not. "The genes that a neuron expresses determine how the cell responds to stimuli, how it is affected by disease, and how it reacts to medications," the researchers concluded.
An extension to this study, on the expression of genes over a lifetime, showed that "older neurons express genes in different proportions than younger (genes)." In other words, it is possible that older cells are "more vulnerable to disease." Aging is just one of the factor that affects gene expression, but it is a stepping stone to knowing more about diseases in specific, specialized cells in the brain.
This is great research in the field of neurology, neuroscience, and brain diseases. Knowing the root of a potential life-threatening brain disease comes from, molecularly, could be great information to have for researchers and doctors.

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