Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Fatheads: How Neurons Protect Themselves Against Excess Fat

11.04.2013
We’re all fatheads. That is, our brain cells are packed with fat molecules, more of them than almost any other cell type. Still, if the brain cells’ fat content gets too high, they’ll be in trouble.

In a recent study in mice, researchers at Johns Hopkins pinpointed an enzyme that keeps neurons’ fat levels under control, and may be implicated in human neurological diseases. Their findings are published in the May 2013 issue of Molecular and Cellular Biology.

“There are known connections between problems with how the body’s cells process fats and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis,” says Michael Wolfgang, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Chemistry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences. “Now we’ve taken a step toward better understanding that connection by identifying an enzyme that lets neurons get rid of excess fat that would otherwise be toxic.”

Wolfgang says one clue to the reason for the neurodegeneration/fat-processing connection is that neurons, unlike most cells in the body, seemingly can’t break down fats for energy. Instead, brain cells use fats for tasks such as building cell membranes and communicating information. At the same time, he says, they must prevent the buildup of unneeded fats. Neurons’ fat-loss strategy is rooted in the fact that a fat molecule attached to a chemical group called coenzyme A will be trapped inside the cell, while the coenzyme A-free version can easily cross the cell membrane and escape. With this in mind, Wolfgang, along with colleagues Jessica Ellis, Ph.D., and G. William Wong, Ph.D., focused their study on an enzyme, called ACOT7, which is plentiful in the brain and lops coenzyme A off of certain fat molecules.

The team created mice with a non-working gene for ACOT7 and compared them with normal mice. The scientists saw no obvious differences between the two types of mice as long as they had ready access to food, Wolfgang says. But when food was taken away overnight, so that the mice’s cells would start to break down their fat stores and release fat molecules into the bloodstream for use as energy, ACOT7’s role began to emerge. While the normal fasting mice were merely hungry, the mice lacking ACOT7 had poor coordination, a sign of neurodegeneration. More differences emerged when the researchers dissected the mice; most strikingly, the livers of mice missing ACOT7 were “stark white” with excess fat, Wolfgang says.

Wolfgang cautions that his group’s results are not quite a smoking gun for ACOT7’s involvement in human neurological disease, but says they add to existing circumstantial evidence pointing in that direction. He notes that a special diet that changes the levels of fats and sugars in the bloodstream – the so-called ketogenic diet – can prevent seizures in epileptics; in addition, one study found that patients with epilepsy have less of the ACOT7 enzyme than healthy people.

“We think ACOT7’s purpose is to protect neurons from toxicity and death by allowing excess fat to escape the cells,” Ellis says. “Our next step will be to see whether this enzyme does indeed play a role in human neurological disease.”

Link to the paper: http://mcb.asm.org/content/33/9/1869.full

The study was funded by the American Heart Association (grant numbers SDG2310008 and SDG2260721), the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (grant number NS072241), the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (grant number DK084171) and the Baltimore Diabetes Research and Training Center (grant number P60DK079637).

Shawna Williams | Newswise
Further information:
http://www.jhmi.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Enduring cold temperatures alters fat cell epigenetics
19.04.2018 | University of Tokyo

nachricht Full of hot air and proud of it
18.04.2018 | University of Pittsburgh

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Writing and deleting magnets with lasers

Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...

Im Focus: Gamma-ray flashes from plasma filaments

Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.

The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...

Im Focus: Basel researchers succeed in cultivating cartilage from stem cells

Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.

Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...

Im Focus: Like a wedge in a hinge

Researchers lay groundwork to tailor drugs for new targets in cancer therapy

In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...

Im Focus: The Future of Ultrafast Solid-State Physics

In an article that appears in the journal “Review of Modern Physics”, researchers at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (LAP) assess the current state of the field of ultrafast physics and consider its implications for future technologies.

Physicists can now control light in both time and space with hitherto unimagined precision. This is particularly true for the ability to generate ultrashort...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

IWOLIA: A conference bringing together German Industrie 4.0 and French Industrie du Futur

09.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Diamond-like carbon is formed differently to what was believed -- machine learning enables development of new model

19.04.2018 | Materials Sciences

Electromagnetic wizardry: Wireless power transfer enhanced by backward signal

19.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Ultrafast electron oscillation and dephasing monitored by attosecond light source

19.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>