Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Worms Provide Clues for Treating Brain Diseases

24.09.2008
The tiny roundworm bears little resemblance to a person. Its nervous system has just 302 neurons to our 100 billion. Yet it uses many of the same genes and signaling chemicals as the human brain, so studies of its system could have relevance to our own. A new MIT study shows that even the simplest worm behaviors can be controlled by multiple signaling pathways, with implications for treating human brain disorders.

On the surface, the tiny roundworm bears little resemblance to a person. Its nervous system, for example, has just 302 neurons to our 100 billion. Yet it uses many of the same genes and signaling chemicals as the human brain, so studies of its system could have relevance to our own.

Now an MIT team shows that even the simplest worm behaviors can be controlled by multiple signaling pathways. The results might have implications for the treatment of human brain disorders.

In the new study, which appears in the Sept. 21 issue of Nature Neuroscience, H. Robert Horvitz and postdoctoral scientist Niels Ringstad investigated neural pathways of a mutant worm strain with defective egg-laying behavior. Horvitz, a Nobel laureate, is the David H. Koch Professor of Biology, a member of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.

Normally, a hermaphrodite worm fertilizes its own eggs within the uterus and lays them steadily as they mature. In certain mutant strains, though, this process is blocked, causing the animals to bloat with 50 or more retained embryos.

A genetic screen for such mutants had earlier identified a gene called egl-6. Ringstad and Horvitz discovered that this gene encodes a member of a class of proteins known as G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs). GPCRs allow cells to respond to hormones, neurotransmitters and other signals, and they are important targets for many human drugs.

Ringstad and Horvitz found that the egl-6 mutants had an over-active form of the receptor, suggesting that the normal function of the receptor is to limit the rate of egg laying. So Ringstad and Horvitz postulated that blocking this signaling pathway genetically might cause the worms to lay their eggs faster. However, doing so produced no effect.

Suspecting the existence of a second inhibitory pathway, the authors tested a variety of candidates. They found an effect when they also blocked signaling by acetylcholine, a well-known neurotransmitter in both worms and humans. Animals lacking both pathways became hyperactive egg layers.

“Inhibition of this simple behavior uses two neurochemical signals,” explains Ringstad. “It’s like having two brakes in a car. We removed the footbrake, expecting the car to roll away, but we also had to disable the handbrake.”

The results support an approach to drug discovery in the field of neuroscience, suggest the authors. If multiple pathways control a neural output so that either pathway is capable of inhibiting that output, then drugs that target just one pathway might have absolutely no effect. Instead, appropriate combinations of drugs will need to be identified.

The Life Sciences Research Foundation, The Medical Foundation and the National Institutes of Health supported this study.

About the McGovern Institute at MIT
The McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT is led by a team of world-renowned neuroscientists committed to meeting two great challenges of modern science: understanding how the brain works and discovering new ways to prevent or treat brain disorders. The McGovern Institute was established in 2000 by Patrick J. McGovern and Lore Harp McGovern, who are committed to improving human welfare, communication and understanding through their support for neuroscience research. The director is Robert Desimone, formerly the head of intramural research at the National Institute of Mental Health.

Teresa Herbert | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://web.mit.edu/mcgovern/
http://www.mit.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht A Map of the Cell’s Power Station
18.08.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht On the way to developing a new active ingredient against chronic infections
21.08.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für Infektionsforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stretchable biofuel cells extract energy from sweat to power wearable devices

22.08.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

New technique to treating mitral valve diseases: First patient data

22.08.2017 | Medical Engineering

IVAM Marketing Prize recognizes convincing technology marketing for the tenth time

22.08.2017 | Awards Funding

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>