Could some forms of mental retardation be treated with drugs?

October 20, 2009

Growth factors. They are the proteins that trigger a countless number of actions in cells. Drugs that increase or decrease certain growth factors have lead to treatments for cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Georgetown University Medical Center researchers say a new understanding of a growth factor implicated in some mental retardation disorders could lead to a novel treatment.

Abnormalities in the number and shape of dendritic spines, the protrusions that allow communication between , have been observed in patients with mental retardation. Previous research led by Baoji Xu, PhD, associate professor in the department of pharmacology, has shown that brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a growth factor synthesized in dendrites, regulates the number and shape of dendritic spines required for spatial learning and memory.

In this work, presented during a symposium at the 39th annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, Xu and his colleagues halted the transport of BDNF to dendritic spines in mice. They found similar abnormalities in dendritic spine development seen in humans with some forms of mental retardation, such as . The mice also exhibited impaired learning and memory.

These results highlight the role of BDNF in , Xu says, and indicate that increasing the transport of these growth factors may be a way to treat these conditions.

Source: Georgetown University Medical Center (news : web)

Explore further: Molecular 'foreman' discovered for brain wiring

Related Stories

Molecular 'foreman' discovered for brain wiring

November 21, 2007

Researchers have identified a master regulatory molecule that is responsible for triggering the remodeling of neuronal connections that is critical for learning. Malfunctioning of the connection-remodeling machinery that ...

Location, location, location

July 10, 2008

Neuroscientists at Georgetown University Medical Center have solved a mystery that lies at the heart of human learning, and they say the solution may help explain some forms of mental retardation as well as provide clues ...

APP -- Good, bad or both?

October 18, 2009

New data about amyloid precursor protein, or APP, a protein implicated in development of Alzheimer's disease, suggests it also may have a positive role -- directly affecting learning and memory during brain development. So ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.