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 Study tracks inner workings of the brain with new biosensor
16.08.2018 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

nachricht Foods of the future
15.08.2018 | Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

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: It’s All in the Mix: Jülich Researchers are Developing Fast-Charging Solid-State Batteries

There are currently great hopes for solid-state batteries. They contain no liquid parts that could leak or catch fire. For this reason, they do not require cooling and are considered to be much safer, more reliable, and longer lasting than traditional lithium-ion batteries. Jülich scientists have now introduced a new concept that allows currents up to ten times greater during charging and discharging than previously described in the literature. The improvement was achieved by a “clever” choice of materials with a focus on consistently good compatibility. All components were made from phosphate compounds, which are well matched both chemically and mechanically.

The low current is considered one of the biggest hurdles in the development of solid-state batteries. It is the reason why the batteries take a relatively long...

Im Focus: Color effects from transparent 3D-printed nanostructures

New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D-print templates for user-given colors
Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference

Most of the objects we see are colored by pigments, but using pigments has disadvantages: such colors can fade, industrial pigments are often toxic, and...

Im Focus: Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

A new study sheds light on how ultralow frequency radio waves and plasmas interact

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

LaserForum 2018 deals with 3D production of components

17.08.2018 | Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Air pollution leads to cardiovascular diseases

21.08.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Researchers target protein that protects bacteria's DNA 'recipes'

21.08.2018 | Life Sciences

A paper battery powered by bacteria

21.08.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>