New Discovery Could Rejuvenate the Brain

December 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: Signal peptides' novel role in glutamate receptor trafficking and neural synaptic activity

Related Stories

Signal peptides' novel role in glutamate receptor trafficking and neural synaptic activity

November 19, 2018
Glutamate is the major excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain, and the postsynaptic expression level of glutamate receptors is a critical factor in determining the efficiency of information transmission and the activity ...

When you're grateful, your brain becomes more charitable

November 22, 2018
'Tis the season when the conversation shifts to what you're thankful for. Gathered with family and friends around a holiday feast, for instance, people may recount some of the biggies – like their health or their children ...

Mothers whose responses to infants' facial cues increase report stronger bonds with babies

December 4, 2018
The transition to motherhood triggers changes in mothers' brain structure that may facilitate bonding with their infants. While many studies have focused on the postpartum period, researchers have not examined whether changes ...

Allusive machines: How new technologies could shape beliefs and theories about life

October 8, 2018
Two researchers at the IT University of Copenhagen have recently carried out a fascinating study that introduces the concept of "allusive machines," exploring how technical systems can persuade users into shaping their own ...

Brain cells called astrocytes have unexpected role in brain 'plasticity'

October 18, 2018
When we're born, our brains have a great deal of flexibility. Having this flexibility to grow and change gives the immature brain the ability to adapt to new experiences and organize its interconnecting web of neural circuits. ...

Optoelectronic interface for stimulating neural networks in the brain

October 23, 2018
In the past few decades, research aimed at finding approaches to restoring brain function has increased exponentially. An interdisciplinary approach to the task of brain function restoration combines complementary approaches ...

Recommended for you

Exercise-induced hormone irisin triggers bone remodeling in mice

December 13, 2018
Exercise has been touted to build bone mass, but exactly how it actually accomplishes this is a matter of debate. Now, researchers show that an exercise-induced hormone activates cells that are critical for bone remodeling ...

Law professor suggests a way to validate and integrate deep learning medical systems

December 13, 2018
University of Michigan professor W. Nicholson Price, who also has affiliations with Harvard Law School and the University of Copenhagen Faculty of Law, suggests in a Focus piece published in Science Translational Medicine, ...

Faster test for Ebola shows promising results in field trials

December 13, 2018
A team of researchers with members from the U.S., Senegal and Guinea, in cooperation with Becton, Dickinson and Company (BD), has developed a faster test for the Ebola virus than those currently in use. In their paper published ...

Pain: Perception and motor impulses arise in brain independently of one another

December 13, 2018
Pain is a negative sensation that we want to get rid of as soon as possible. In order to protect our bodies, we react by withdrawing the hand from heat, for example. This action is usually understood as the consequence of ...

Drug targets for Ebola, Dengue, and Zika viruses found in lab study

December 13, 2018
No drugs are currently available to treat Ebola, Dengue, or Zika viruses, which infect millions of people every year and result in severe illness, birth defects, and even death. New research from the Gladstone Institutes ...

Researchers give new insight to muscular dystrophy patients

December 13, 2018
New research by University of Minnesota scientists has revealed the three-dimensional structure of the DUX4 protein, which is responsible for the disease, facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD). Unlike the majority ...

3 comments

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.