Researchers have found a family of molecules that play a key role in the formation of synapses, the junctions that link brain cells, called neurons, to each other. The molecules initiate the development of these connections, forming the circuitry of the mammalian nervous system.
Scientists from Harvard University and Washington University in St. Louis describe the findings in the July 23 issue of the journal Cell.
"This is very basic work, far from any clinical applications at this point," says author Joshua R. Sanes, professor of molecular and cellular biology in Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. "Still, one can think of lots of cases, from normal aging to mental retardation to neurodegenerative disease, where making more synapses or preventing synapse loss might be beneficial. This finding may eventually point the way to new therapies."
Steve Bradt | EurekAlert!
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