Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


’Survival’ genes hold key to healthy brains in babies and the elderly


Completing a daily crossword and enjoying a range of activities and interests has long been accepted as a recipe for maintaining a healthy brain in older age, but the reasons for this have never been clear. Now, scientists at the University of Edinburgh are seeking to identify brain’s ’survival’ genes which lie dormant in unused brain cells, but are re-awakened in active brain cells. These awakened genes make the brain cells live longer and resist traumas such as disease, stroke and the effects of drugs, and are also critical to brain development in unborn babies.

Their findings could lead to the development of smarter drugs or gene therapies to halt the progress of neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease and may also explain, scientifically, the benefits to the brain of maintaining an intellectually and physically stimulating lifestyle in later years.

Dr Giles Hardingham of the Centre for Neuroscience Research at the University of Edinburgh said: "When brain cells are highly stimulated, many unused genes are suddenly reactivated. We have found that a group of these genes can make the active brain cells far healthier than lazy, inactive cells, and more likely to live a long life. These findings also have implications at the other end of life, where maternal drug taking and drinking can cause these survival genes to be turned off in the brain of unborn babies."

Dr Hardingham, who presented this work recently at the prestigious annual meeting for the Society for Neuroscience in Washington DC, explained: "We recently discovered that a critical step in turning on these survival genes involves activating a master genetic controller called CREB. We aim to home in on which of these CREB-controlled genes are crucial in helping the brain cells live longer and become resistant to trauma. By being able to explain at molecular level the basis of brain activity-dependent survival, it will open the way to developing better therapies to help halt the progress of neurological diseases.

He added: "Our work also bears relevance to the potential harm that can befall an unborn baby if it is exposed to substances which suppress its brain activity, like alcohol, and certain drugs like Ketamine and PCP (Angel Dust). The brain cells of young, developing brains are particularly reliant on signals from these ’survival’ genes, but these signals are suppressed if their mothers are taking drugs or drinking alcohol.

"This in turn can lead to serious health problems such as foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which affects up to one per cent of live births in the UK and can cause mental retardation, behavioural problems and diminished growth. Some of this harm may be reduced or minimized if we know exactly how it is taking place."

Linda Menzies | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration
25.10.2016 | eLife

nachricht Phenotype at the push of a button
25.10.2016 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

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...

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

Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging

25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Etching Microstructures with Lasers

25.10.2016 | Process Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>