Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers at UH work to prevent neurological diseases

25.06.2010
Jan-Åke Gustafsson investigates 'wireless connections' in the brain

Many diseases of brain function, such as epilepsy and schizophrenia, are caused by problems in how neurons communicate with each other. A University of Houston (UH) researcher and his team are analyzing these commands and connections in an attempt to prevent those diseases.

Dr. Jan-Åke Gustafsson, Robert A. Welch Professor in UH's biology and biochemistry department, describes his team's findings in a paper titled "Liver X receptor β and thyroid hormone receptor α in brain cortical layering," appearing in the current online issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, one of the world's most-cited multidisciplinary scientific serials.

"The brain works like a computer," said Gustafsson, who also is director of the Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling at UH. "We know something about the hard wire, but so far we know nothing about 'wireless connections.' Our work is about how and when the components of the 'computer' are assembled and how the connections between the components are made."

The brain is composed of brain cells, called neurons, which are placed in the correct position in the brain during fetal and infant development. The neurons move with military precision to their correct places just like soldiers in a military parade, except the ranks are referred to as layers. If any of the neurons fail to make the correct move then there will be gaps in the formation of the cortex, which is the outer brain layer. Any distractions that slow down or speed up the neurons will cause a problem with the formation of the cortex. Normally, the neurons obey several commands that come from the environment, hormones and other nearby neurons.

"Like a computer, such connections determine how fast we think and how good our memories are, but also whether we will develop diseases like epilepsy or schizophrenia," he said. "Since the commands to the neurons come from hormones and environmental pollutants, it is essential that we understand how the commands are given and received if we are going to prevent those diseases, which appear to be due to the incorrect positioning of neurons."

Liver X and thyroid hormone receptors, which were studied for this paper, have been found to be essential to the developing cortex in mouse embryos and thereby sometimes regulate the same genes. The first part of the paper explains the importance of the liver X receptor, or LXR, which has been shown to be an important factor in brain development and, very likely, in neurological diseases. LXR plays key roles in cholesterol regulation and the central nervous system, regulating brain cholesterol levels, as well as in maintenance of motor neurons in the spinal cord. Gustafsson said the LXR belongs to a gene family called nuclear receptors that is akin to a "military division." If the LXR "commander" is taken away, the neurons under its command do not move. The second part of the paper says another "commander," called a thyroid hormone receptor, can later wake up the neurons that have stopped on the way and make them move again so that the formation of the cortex is restored.

The research team analyzed the architecture of the cerebral cortex in embryonic and neonatal mice, removing different receptors through genetic manipulation. When they want to find out the function of a gene, they use knockout technology to inactivate it, or knock it out. The process involves inserting a mistake into the gene. Since the genes in mice have similar functions in humans, the researchers can obtain information about what causes human diseases.

In addition to Gustafsson, the UH team consists of post-doc students Dr. Xin-jie Tan, Dr. Hyun-jin Kim, graduate student Ryan Butler and professor Margaret Warner. Additional collaborators include scientists from the Third Military Medical University in China, Methodist Hospital Research Institute in Houston and the Center for Biosciences at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.

About the University of Houston

The University of Houston is a comprehensive national research institution serving the globally competitive Houston and Gulf Coast Region by providing world-class faculty, experiential learning and strategic industry partnerships. UH serves 37,000 students in the nation's fourth-largest city in the most ethnically and culturally diverse region in the country.

About the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

The UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, with 181 ranked faculty and approximately 4,500 students, offers bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in the natural sciences, computational sciences and mathematics. Faculty members in the departments of biology and biochemistry, chemistry, computer science, earth and atmospheric sciences, mathematics and physics conduct internationally recognized research in collaboration with industry, Texas Medical Center institutions, NASA and others worldwide.

For more information about UH, visit the university's Newsroom at http://www.uh.edu/news-events/.

To receive UH science news via e-mail, visit http://www.uh.edu/news-events/mailing-lists/sciencelistserv/index.php.

For additional news alerts about UH, follow us on Facebook at http://tinyurl.com/6qw9ht and Twitter at http://twitter.com/UH_News.

Lisa Merkl | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uh.edu

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht One gene closer to regenerative therapy for muscular disorders
01.06.2017 | Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

nachricht The gut microbiota plays a key role in treatment with classic diabetes medication
01.06.2017 | University of Gothenburg

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: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>