Through the identification of a gene's impact on a signaling pathway, scientists at Children's National Medical Center continue to make progress in understanding the mechanics of a key brain developmental process: growth and repair of white matter, known as myelination.
The study, published online in the September 2011 online edition of The Journal of Neuroscience, identified Sox17 as the gene that helps regulate the Wnt/beta-catenin signaling pathway during the transition of oligodendrocyte progenitor cells, or immature brain cells, to a more mature, differentiated state where they generate myelin.
"This is the first time the Sox17 gene has been identified as a regulator of the Wnt/beta-catenin pathway during myelination," said Li-Jin Chew, PhD, lead author of the study. "Our findings indicate that loss of Sox17 over-stimulates the Wnt/beta-catenin pathway and keeps oligodendrocyte progenitor cells from maturing and producing myelin, potentially causing developmental disabilities in developing babies and children."
Myelin is the protective material around the axons of neurons; in mass these types of ensheathed neurons are collectively called white matter. White matter serves as the primary messaging "network" that conducts signals rapidly between gray matter areas. Without it, the brain does not function properly. Myelination, or growth of white matter, in humans begins in utero at around 5 months of gestation and continues throughout the first two decades of life. Myelination can be impaired for a number of reasons, most commonly intrauterine infection, reduced or interrupted blood flow (which carries oxygen and nutrients) to the forming infant brain, or perinatal injury. As a result, white matter doesn't develop the way that it should or is somehow damaged, resulting in mental retardation and developmental disabilities. "From here we plan to look more closely at the parts of the pathway that Sox17 regulates. We'll be able to understand the crucial molecular events that occur during oligodendrocyte development and disease," stated Vittorio Gallo, PhD, director of the Center for Neuroscience Research. "This is an incredibly exciting discovery that puts us closer to figuring out the underlying cause of white matter diseases. It also means that we may eventually understand how we could influence these pathways and possibly ease white matter damage or deficiency in our patients."
Myelination, white matter growth and repair, and the study of complex mechanisms of prenatal brain development are a key focus of the Center for Neuroscience Research at Children's National, which also houses the White Matter Diseases Program, one of the largest clinical programs in the country for treating children with disorders that cause the brain's white matter to degenerate.
About Children's National Medical Center:
Children's National Medical Center in Washington, DC, has been serving the nation's children since 1870. Home to Children's Research Institute and the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation, Children's National is consistently ranked among the top pediatric hospitals by U.S.News & World Report and the Leapfrog Group. With 283 beds, more than 1,330 nurses, 550 physicians, and seven regional outpatient centers, Children's National is the only exclusive provider of acute pediatric services in the Washington metropolitan area. Children's National has been recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center as a Magnet® designated hospital, the highest level of recognition for nursing excellence that a medical center can achieve. For more information, visit ChildrensNational.org, receive the latest news from the Children's National press room, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Emily Hartman | EurekAlert!
Another reason to exercise: Burning bone fat -- a key to better bone health
19.05.2017 | University of North Carolina Health Care
Disrupted fat breakdown in the brain makes mice dumb
19.05.2017 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.
We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.
In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...
Dental plaque and the viscous brown slime in drainpipes are two familiar examples of bacterial biofilms. Removing such bacterial depositions from surfaces is...
23.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Event News
17.05.2017 | Event News
23.05.2017 | Earth Sciences
23.05.2017 | Life Sciences
23.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy