About one in ten thousand babies is born with an abnormally small head. The cause for this disorder – which is known as microcephaly – is a defect in the develoment of the embryonic brain. Children with microcephaly are severely retarded and their life expectancy is low. Certain cases of autism and schizophrenia are also associated with the dysregulation of brain size.
Comparison of the size of a normal brain (left) and a microcephalic brain (right). Drawing based on coronal sections of human brains.
Genetically altered mouse embryo at the age of 12 days. Cells that produce the protein TUBB5 light up in green (most obviously in the developing brain).
The causes underlying impaired brain development can be environmental stress (such as alcohol abuse or radiation) or viral infections (such as rubella) during pregnancy. In many cases, however, a mutant gene causes the problem.
David Keays, a group leader at the IMP, has now found a new gene which is responsible for Microcephaly. Together with his PhD-student Martin Breuss, he was able to identify TUBB5 as the culprit. The gene is responsible for making tubulins, the building blocks of the cell’s internal skeleton. Whenever a cell moves or divides, it relies on guidance from this internal structure, acting like a scaffold.
The IMP-researchers, together with collaborators at Monash University (Victoria, Australia), were able to interfere with the function of the TUBB5 in the brains of unborn mice. This led to massive disturbances in the stem cell population and impaired the migration of nerve cells. Both, the generation of large numbers of neurons from the stem cell reservoir and their correct positioning in the cortex, are essential for the development of the mammalian brain.
To determine whether the findings are also relevant in humans, David Keays collaborates with clinicians from the Paris-Sorbonne University. The French team led by Jamel Chelly, examined 120 patients with pathological brain structures and severe disabilities. Three of the children were found to have a mutated TUBB5-gene.
This information will prove vital to doctors treating children with brain disease. It will allow the development of new genetic tests which will form the basis of genetic counseling, helping parents plan for the future. By understanding how different genes cause brain disorders, it is hoped that one day scientists will be able to create new drugs and therapies to treat them.
The new findings by the IMP-researchers are published in the current issue of the journal “Cell Reports”. For David Keays, understanding the function of TUBB5 is the key to understanding brain development. “Our project shows how research in the lab can help improve lives in the clinic”, he adds.
The paper "Mutations in the â-tubulin Gene TUBB5 Cause Microcephaly with Structural Brain Abnormalities" is published on December 13, 2012, in the online-Journal Cell Reports.About the IMP
Dr. Heidemarie Hurtl | idw
Researchers reveal new details on aged brain, Alzheimer's and dementia
21.11.2017 | Allen Institute
Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development
21.11.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Silicatforschung ISC
The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.
Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....
The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...
Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.
That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...
Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.
During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....
The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.
Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...
15.11.2017 | Event News
15.11.2017 | Event News
30.10.2017 | Event News
21.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
21.11.2017 | Materials Sciences
21.11.2017 | Health and Medicine