Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Transgenic Songbirds Provide New Tool to Understand the Brain

30.09.2009
You can learn a lot from an animal. By manipulating the DNA of mice, flies, frogs and worms, scientists have discovered a great deal about the genes and molecules behind many of life’s essential processes.

These basic functions often work about the same in people as they do in “model” animals. But if you want to study more sophisticated cognitive processes such as humans’ ability to learn language from one another, you need a more sophisticated organism. For the first time, researchers have devised a way to alter the genes of the zebra finch, one of a handful of social animals that learn to “speak” by imitating their fellows.

After decades of studying the behavior and anatomy of vocal learning, scientists will be able to use the technique to explore vocal learning at the molecular level. The new tool, reported online in the September 28 issue of PNAS Early Edition, may also reveal secrets about exactly how, when and why some neurons are replaced in the adult brain.

“The roadblock had been that you couldn’t manipulate the genes,” says Fernando Nottebohm, Dorothea L. Leonhardt Professor and head of the Laboratory of Animal Behavior at The Rockefeller University, where the research was conducted. “Ultimately, you have to understand how things are working at the most basic molecular level, and this will take our research there.”

Nottebohm, Research Associate Robert Agate and colleagues adapted a method used to alter quail genes for use in the finch. The researchers used an HIV-based lentivirus that is able to insert attached genes into the genome of the hosts it infects. To prove the method works, the scientists inserted genes that produce green fluorescent protein in cells throughout the body. They found that they had to inject at least 10 times as much of the viral vector into finch embryos than in quail for the genes to take root. But after refining the method, they produced several birds that had incorporated the genes into their germline cells, meaning they could pass them along to their offspring. These “founder” transgenic songbirds did not suffer any obvious side effects from the genetic experiment: They developed normally, learned to sing, and mated. But because of the fluorescent protein produced throughout their bodies, they glow green when exposed to a specific wavelength of blue light. The green can be best seen before the hatchlings’ feathers grow in, but can still be glimpsed in the eyes, legs and around the beaks of the older, feathered birds.

The transgenic songbirds will enable Nottebohm, who discovered neuronal replacement in the adult vertebrate brain and described the neural circuitry by which songbirds learn to sing, to investigate the genes that control these processes. “With transgenic songbirds, we hope to have a splendid tool to get into the molecular biology of vocal learning and neuronal replacement in an adult vertebrate brain,” Nottebohm says.

Brett Norman | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.rockefeller.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Could this protein protect people against coronary artery disease?
17.11.2017 | University of North Carolina Health Care

nachricht Microbial resident enables beetles to feed on a leafy diet
17.11.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA detects solar flare pulses at Sun and Earth

17.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

NIST scientists discover how to switch liver cancer cell growth from 2-D to 3-D structures

17.11.2017 | Health and Medicine

The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change

17.11.2017 | Studies and Analyses

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>