New findings may shed light on brain and spinal cord birth defects

Jan 19, 2010

New research, published by Cell Press in the January 19th issue of the journal Developmental Cell, provides intriguing insight into how the nervous system forms during very early embryonic development. The study sheds light on a process called neural tube closure which, when disrupted, causes congenital birth defects of the brain and spinal cord, including anencephaly and spina bifida.

During normal embryonic development, a flat sheet of cells that is destined to give rise to the brain and thickens and forms a groove with raised sides. Eventually, the sides of the groove fuse, almost like zipping a zipper, to form a hollow structure called the neural tube. If the neural tube does not "zip up" completely, it causes the brain and to develop abnormally, resulting in defects that that range in severity from partial paralysis to death. These are relatively common, representing serious problems for 1/1000 live human births.

Details about what drives formation of the neural tube have remained elusive. But now, a study led by Drs. Eric Camerer and Shaun R. Coughlin from the Cardiovascular Research Institute at the University of California, San Francisco has shown that proteins called protease-activated receptors (PARs), which are best known for their role in tissue response to injury in adults, are required for neural tube closure. The researchers found that mice lacking specific PARs exhibited neural tube defects.

Interestingly, specific PARs and the protein that controls them were only active along the edges of the groove where and when the edges of the neural tube fused. These observations led the researchers to hypothesize that this PAR might sense the integrity of the tissue, as it does in the case of injuries, to regulate the closure of the tube. "Our discovery of molecular events that contribute to neural tube closure in mice might lead to insights into the complex mechanisms underlying human neural tube defects," concludes Dr. Coughlin.

Explore further: US scientists make embryonic stem cells from adult skin

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New molecular insight into vertebrate brain development

Nov 17, 2008

In the December 1st issue of G&D, Dr. Fred H. Gage (The Salk Institute for Biological Studies) and colleagues reveal a role for the Hippo signaling pathway in the regulation of vertebrate neural development, identifying new fa ...

Recommended for you

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

Apr 18, 2014

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...

New pain relief targets discovered

Apr 17, 2014

Scientists have identified new pain relief targets that could be used to provide relief from chemotherapy-induced pain. BBSRC-funded researchers at King's College London made the discovery when researching ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Treating depression in Parkinson's patients

A group of scientists from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging has found interesting new information in a study on depression and neuropsychological function in Parkinson's ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...