Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Discoveries in neuroscience


Malaria drug blocks brain conduits, a boon for neuroscience research

Brown University researchers have discovered that mefloquine, an anti-malarial drug, blocks two gap junction proteins, or connexins, in low doses and with very few side effects in the brains of laboratory mice. The work opens an important door: Connexins found in high concentrations in the brain are believed to play a critical role in movement, vision and memory.

To understand how these communication "tunnels" work, scientists must be able to shut them off. Once those tunnels are disabled, researchers can pinpoint the information that connexins pass between nerve cells and determine how that information affects how the body’s development and function.

A technique already exists to study connexins.

Scientists can remove, or "knock out," genes that hold the recipe for connexins, then study the results in mice. But the Brown University scientists who worked on the experiment – Barry Connors, professor of neuroscience, and Scott Cruikshank, research associate – said "knockout mice" aren’t a perfect model. As mice – and humans – grow, they can compensate for missing genes by turning other genes on or off and cooking up other protein recipes. These biochemical changes can make it difficult to recognize connexins’ role.

But mefloquine in adult mice precisely and potently blocks connexins called Cx36 and Cx50. There are about 20 kinds of connexins in the brain and eye, as well in organs such as the heart, liver and pancreas. Cx36 is found in the brain; Cx50 is located in the lens. By specifically blocking them, Cruikshank said mefloquine will be a useful tool for electrical synapse study.

"Mefloquine isn’t a magic bullet, but it seems to be better than anything out there," he said. "It’s a lot more selective, so it has real utility for science."

Connors said the discovery, detailed in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences for the week of August 2, could shed light on the cause of epilepsy and seizures. Scientists suspect that a Cx36 mutation causes these common neurological conditions, which occur when the messages swapped between synapses get scrambled. Meanwhile, a Cx50 mutation can form cataracts in mice.

"Electrical synapses were only discovered in the neocortex of mammals five years ago," Connors said, "so they are still a mystery. What do they control? How? When? These are big questions in neuroscience and this drug will help us answer some of them."

Conducted with scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and funded by the National Institutes of Health, the research offered up an intriguing secondary finding.

In rare cases, mefloquine can cause anxiety, panic attacks, depression and other psychotic side effects. Doctors have never understood why. Connors and Cruikshank said their research may hold the answer: Connexin shut-down in the brain.

Wendy Lawton | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht ‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans
24.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für marine Mikrobiologie

nachricht Calcium Induces Chronic Lung Infections
24.10.2016 | Universität Basel

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Oasis of life in the ice-covered central Arctic

24.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

24.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>