Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Bodyguard for the Brain

12.07.2011
Researchers from the Universities of Bonn and Mainz have discovered a mechanism that seems to protect the brain from aging.

In experiments with mice, they switched off the cannabinoid-1 receptor. As a consequence, the animals showed signs of degeneration – as seen in people with dementia - much faster. The research results are presented in a current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Humans are getting older and older, and the number of people with dementia is increasing. The factors controlling degeneration of the brain are still mostly unknown. However, researchers assume that factors such as stress, accumulation of toxic waste products as well as inflammation accelerate aging. But, vice versa, there are also mechanisms that can - like a bodyguard - protect the brain from degenerating, or repair defective structures.

Researchers from the Universities of Bonn and Mainz have now discovered a hitherto unknown function of the cannabinoid-1 receptor (CB1). A receptor is a protein that can bind to other substances, triggering a chain of signals. Cannabinoids such as THC – the active agent in cannabis sativa – and endocannabinoids formed by the body bind to the CB1 receptors. The existence of this receptor is also the reason for the intoxicating effect of hashish and marijuana.

Not only does the CB1 receptor have an addictive potential, but it also plays a role in the degeneration of the brain. “If we switch off the receptor using gene technology, mouse brains age much faster,” said Önder Albayram, principal author of the publication and a doctoral student on the team of Professor Dr. Andreas Zimmer from the Institut für Molekulare Psychiatrie at the University of Bonn. “This means that the CB1 signal system has a protective effect for nerve cells.”

Mice prove their brain power in a pool

The researchers studied mice in different age categories – young six week old animals, middle-aged ones at five months, and those of an advanced age at 12 months. The animals had to master various tasks – first, they had to find a submerged platform in the pool. Once the mice knew its location, the platform was moved, and the animals had to find it again. This was how the researchers tested how well the rodents learned and remembered.

The animals in which the CB1 receptor had been switched off (the knock-out mice) clearly differed from their kind. “The knock-out mice showed clearly diminished learning and memory capacity,” said Privatdozent Dr. Andras Bilkei-Gorzo from Professor Zimmer’s team, who led the study. So, animals that did not have the receptor were less successful in their search for the platform. “In addition, they showed a clear loss of nerve cells in the hippocampus,” he explained further. This part of the brain is the central area for forming and storing information. In addition, the researchers found inflammation processes in the brain. As the mice advanced in age, the degenerative processes became increasingly noticeable.

Amazing parallels with the human brain

The animals with the intact CB1 receptor, to the contrary, did clearly better with regard to their learning and memory capabilities, as well as the health of their nerve cells. “The root cause of aging is one of the secrets of life,” commented Albayram. This study has begun to open the door to solving this enigma. The processes in the mouse brains have a surprising number of parallels with age-related changes in human brains. So, the endocannabinoid system may also present a protective mechanism in the aging of the human brain.

The principal author cautioned, “This will require additional research.” The scientists would like to better understand the mechanism by which CB1 receptors protect the brain from inflammation processes. And based on these signal chains, it might then be possible to develop substances for new therapies.

Publication: Onder Albayram, Judith Alferink, Julika Pitsch, Anastasia Piyanova, Kim Neitzert, Karola Poppensieker, Daniela Mauer, Kerstin Michel, Anne Legler, Albert Becker, Krisztina Monory, Beat Lutz, Andreas Zimmer and Andras Bilkei-Gorzo: Role of CB1 cannabinoid receptors on GABAergic neurons in brain aging, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1016442108

A photo for this press release can be found at http://www3.uni-bonn.de/Pressemitteilungen/199-2011

Contact:
Privatdozent Dr. Andras Bilkei-Gorzo
Institut für Molekulare Psychiatrie der Universität Bonn
Ph.: 0228/6885317
Email: abilkei@uni-bonn.de

Johannes Seiler | idw
Further information:
http://www.uni-bonn.de
http://www3.uni-bonn.de/Pressemitteilungen/199-2011

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Hot cars can hit deadly temperatures in as little as one hour
24.05.2018 | Arizona State University

nachricht 3D images of cancer cells in the body: Medical physicists from Halle present new method
16.05.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Powerful IT security for the car of the future – research alliance develops new approaches

The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.

Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Flow probes from the 3D printer

25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering

Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found

25.05.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>