Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Shining Light on Neurodegenerative Pathway

20.09.2013
University of Adelaide researchers have identified a likely molecular pathway that causes a group of untreatable neurodegenerative diseases, including Huntington’s disease and Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The group of about 20 diseases, which show overlapping symptoms that typically include nerve cell death, share a similar genetic mutation mechanism ‒ but how this form of mutation causes these diseases has remained a mystery.

“Despite the genes for some of these diseases having been identified 20 years ago, we still haven’t understood the underlying mechanisms that lead to people developing clinical symptoms,” says Professor Robert Richards, Head of Genetics in the University’s School of Molecular and Biomedical Sciences.

“By uncovering the molecular pathway for these diseases, we now expect to be able to define targets for intervention and so come up with potential therapies. Ultimately this will help sufferers to reduce the amount of nerve cell degeneration or slow its progression.”

In an article published in Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience, Professor Richards and colleagues describe their innovative theory and new evidence for the key role of RNA in the development of the diseases. RNA is a large molecule in the cell that copies genetic code from the cell’s DNA and translates it into the proteins that drive biological functions.

People with these diseases all have expanded numbers of copies of particular sequences of the ‘nucleotide bases’ which make up DNA.

“In most cases people with these diseases have increased numbers of repeat sequences in their RNA,” says Professor Richards. “The disease develops when people have too many copies of the repeat sequence. Above a certain threshold, the more copies they have the earlier the disease develops and the more severe the symptoms. The current gap in knowledge is why having these expanded repeat sequences of genes in the RNA translates into actual symptoms.”

Professor Richards says evidence points towards a dysfunctional RNA and a pivotal role of the body’s immune system in the development of the disease.

“Rather than recognising the ‘expanded repeat RNA’ as its own RNA, we believe the ‘expanded repeat RNA’ is being seen as foreign, like the RNA in a virus, and this activates the innate immune system, resulting in loss of function and ultimately the death of the cell,” he says.

The University of Adelaide laboratory modelled and defined the expanded repeat RNA disease pathway using flies (Drosophila). Other laboratories have reported tell-tale, but previously inexplicable, signs characteristic of this pathway in studies of patients with Huntington’s disease and Myotonic Dystrophy.

“This new understanding, once proven in each of the relevant human diseases, opens the way for potential treatments, and should give cause for hope to those with these devastating diseases,” Professor Richards says.

This research has been part-funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia and the National Ataxia Foundation of the USA.

Media Contact:

Professor Robert Richards
Head of Genetics
School of Molecular and Biomedical Sciences
The University of Adelaide
Phone: +61 8 8313 7541
Mobile: +61 422 007 867
robert.richards@adelaide.edu.au
Robyn Mills
Media and Communications Officer
The University of Adelaide
Phone: +61 8 8313 6341
Mobile: +61 410 689 084
robyn.mills@adelaide.edu.au

Robyn Mills | Newswise
Further information:
http://www.adelaide.edu.au

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Two Group A Streptococcus genes linked to 'flesh-eating' bacterial infections
25.09.2017 | University of Maryland

nachricht Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity
22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: LaserTAB: More efficient and precise contacts thanks to human-robot collaboration

At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.

Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Fraunhofer ISE Pushes World Record for Multicrystalline Silicon Solar Cells to 22.3 Percent

25.09.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Usher syndrome: Gene therapy restores hearing and balance

25.09.2017 | Health and Medicine

An international team of physicists a coherent amplification effect in laser excited dielectrics

25.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>