The study is the first to use high-throughput sequencing to uncover active genes in developing brains, and it is likely the best evidence thus far for the activity in the brain of such a large number of genes.
Some of the genes that the researchers found in mice are known to be matched to the human genes that are involved in neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease, autism, and some forms of mental retardation. "Our results can help to pinpoint the specific time during brain development when the genes related to certain diseases are active," said Ma. "This knowledge may help other scientists to develop drugs or gene therapies that can treat the diseases. For example, if a particular gene defect causes poorly constructed connections between certain neurons, a drug might be developed that enhances those connections to compensate for the gene defect."
Ma said his future research plans include looking at some of the genes to see whether they are important for the brain to be formed properly. Chen plans to investigate, specifically, how genes function in development disorders of the brain. This research was supported by Penn State, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation.
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