New Discovery Could Rejuvenate the Brain

Dec 18, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers at The University of British Columbia have discovered why the brain loses its capacity to re-grow connections and repair itself, knowledge that could lead to therapeutics that “rejuvenate” the brain.

The study, published today in The EMBO Journal, identified a set of proteins -- calpain and cortactin, which regulate and control the sprouting of neurons -- a mechanism known as neural plasticity.

Neurons, or nerve cells, process and transmit information by electrochemical signalling and are the core components of the brain and spinal cord. During development, growing neurons are relatively plastic and can sprout new connections, however their plasticity levels drop rapidly as they mature and become integrated into neuronal networks.

This process is the mechanism by which the brain regulates these networks from uncontrolled growth, however; as a consequence, the central nervous system is unable to reorganize itself in response to injury or disease.

“This discovery is exciting because we now know that neurons haven’t lost their capacity to re-grow connections, but instead are under constant repression by the protein calpain,” says Ana Mingorance-Le Meur, postdoctoral fellow in UBC’s Department of Cellular and Physiological Sciences, who has led the investigation along with UBC Professor Timothy O’Connor. “If we can target therapies that block this mechanism, then neurons should be able to sprout new connections, therefore stimulating the brain’s ability to repair its wiring network.”

The research reveals that the loss of plasticity is due to the protein calpain actively blocking the protein cortactin, which is responsible for the sprouting of new connections. The researchers reduced calpain activity in animal models to unlock the sprouting potential of neurons and found that when calpain activity is reduced neural plasticity is enhanced.

“The maintenance of neuronal connections is an active process that requires constant repression of the formation of nerve sprouts by the protein calpain to avoid uncontrolled growth,” says Mingorance-Le Meur, who is also a member of the Brain Research Centre at UBC and VCH Research Institute. “But a consequence of this role is that calpain limits neural plasticity and the brain’s ability to repair itself. The next step is to find a way to enhance neural plasticity without interfering with the good connections that are already in place. The next step is to find a way to enhance neural plasticity without interfering with the good connections that are already in place.”

According to Mingorance-Le Meur, who is also a member of International Collaboration on Repair and Discovery (ICORD), the results are very promising because they help us understand how neural plasticity is regulated. Drugs that could promote neural plasticity could potentially treat a wide range of neurological disorders, as well as boost the effects of other treatments under investigation.

Provided by University of British Columbia

Explore further: Clipping proteins that package genes may limit abnormal cell growth in tumors

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Better diagnostic imaging for traumatic brain injuries

Oct 27, 2014

Image-calibration technology designed and developed by scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute and the Radiological Society ...

Are male brains wired to ignore food for sex?

Oct 16, 2014

Choosing between two good things can be tough. When animals must decide between feeding and mating, it can get even trickier. In a discovery that might ring true even for some humans, researchers have shown that male brains ...

Electric plastics

Jun 11, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Young UNSW biomedical engineer Dr Rylie Green is gaining national attention for her work on conductive plastics for the bionic implants of the future.

Brain process takes paper shape

Feb 12, 2014

A paper-based device that mimics the electrochemical signalling in the human brain has been created by a group of researchers from China.

Recommended for you

Organovo has 3D-printed liver tissue for drug testing

Nov 20, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—The commercial release of 3D printed liver tissue was announced earlier this week. Organovo is the company behind the release. The product is intended for use for preclinical drug discovery ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

itistoday
5 / 5 (1) Dec 18, 2008
Anyone else unable to rate the article (or any others)? Probably something to do with the redesign?
itistoday
5 / 5 (1) Dec 19, 2008
Looks like they fixed it. :-)
s0cratus
5 / 5 (1) Dec 23, 2008
The Origin of Consciousness.
================
Descartes said: "I think , therefore I am"
Buddhist monk says "I think not, therefore I am"
==========================
Consciousness is real but nonphyslcal.
Consciousness is connected to physical reality .
================
There are many theories explaining the origin of consciousness.
Here some of them.
1)
"God" "blowing" "consciousness" "into man"
"whom he created from clay"
2)
20 billions years ago all matter (all elementary particles,
all quarks and their girlfriend antiquarks, all kinds of waves:
electromagnetic, gravitational, muons%u2026.) %u2013
all was assembled in %u201Csingular point%u201D.
Then there was a Big Bang .
Question: when was there consciousness?
a) Before explosion,
b) At the moment of explosion,
c) After the explosion.
It is more probable, that it existed after the explosion.
Then there is a question: what particles (or waves)
were carriers of consciousness?
Mesons, muons, leptons, bosons (W , W- , Z) ,
quarks, %u2026gluons field %u2026.. ets %u2026?
On this question the Big Bang theory does not give an answer.
But can it be that consciousness was formed as a result
of the interaction of all elementary particles, all waves, all fields?
Then, on the one hand, the reason for the origin of the Big Bang is clear:
everything was mixed, including consciousness, and when it is mixed
then it is possible to construct all and everything.
But on the other hand, it is not clear:
why farmer John can think simply, clearly and logically.
3) Ancient Indian Veda approve, that origination of consciousness
is connected with the existence of spiritual, conscious particles %u2013 purusha .
4) Modern physics affirms that the Quantum of light
is a privileged particle as in one cases,
it behave as a particle, and in other case, acts in a way which causes a wave.
How is a particle capable of creating a wave?
The behaviour of Light quanta (dualism ) is explained simply.
A quantum of light has its own initial consciousness.
This consciousness is not rigid, but develops.
The development of consciousness goes
%u201Cfrom vague wish up to a clear thought%u201D.
#
Consciousness is connected to physical reality.
It is fact that consciousness is itself already dualistic.
This dualism stays on the basis of Quantum Physics.
Therefore %u201CQuantum Theory of Consciousness%u201D
can be understand only with connection to the
%u201CTheory of Light Quanta%u201D.
===================================
Best wishes.
Israel Sadovnik. / Socratus.
http://www.socratus.com
http://www.wbabin.net
http://www.wbabin.net/comments/sadovnik.htm
http://www.wbabin.net/physics/sadovnik.pdf

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.