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: Study points to immune system's role in neural development

Related Stories

Study points to immune system's role in neural development

February 2, 2018
Between the ages of two and four, the human brain has an estimated one quadrillion synapses – the electrical connections between neurons. As we age, pruning out extraneous synapses enables existing ones to run more efficiently ...

New study explains how your brain helps you learn new skills

February 8, 2018
Even if you haven't ridden your bike in years, you probably remember how to do so without giving it much thought. If you're a skilled piano player, odds are you can easily sit down and play a song you've rehearsed before. ...

Single-cell analysis reveals diverse landscape of genetic changes in the brain after a sensory experience

February 8, 2018
"Nature and nurture is a convenient jingle of words, for it separates under two distinct heads the innumerable elements of which personality is composed. Nature is all that a man brings with himself into the world; nurture ...

Vision kit will bring new pizzazz to Raspberry Pi projects

December 2, 2017
(Tech Xplore)—Some tinkerers are already talking about what's to come soon in the Google AIY Vision Kit, which is available on pre-order from Micro Center at $44.99. Expected availability is by December 31.

How musical training affects speech processing

December 5, 2017
Musical training is associated with various cognitive improvements and pervasive plasticity in human brains. Among its merits, musical training is thought to enhance the cognitive and neurobiological foundation of speech ...

Brain's immune system may be key to better treatments for psychiatric disorders

January 4, 2018
Between the ages of two and four, the human brain has an estimated one quadrillion synapses – the electrical connections between neurons. That is the highest it will ever have, but as the world is not run by 3-year-olds, ...

Recommended for you

Fabric imbued with optical fibers helps fight skin diseases

February 23, 2018
A team of researchers with Texinov Medical Textiles in France has announced that their PHOS-ISTOS system, called the Fluxmedicare, is on track to be made commercially available later this year. The system consists of a piece ...

Low-calorie diet enhances intestinal regeneration after injury

February 22, 2018
Dramatic calorie restriction, diets reduced by 40 percent of a normal calorie total, have long been known to extend health span, the duration of disease-free aging, in animal studies, and even to extend life span in most ...

Artificial intelligence quickly and accurately diagnoses eye diseases and pneumonia

February 22, 2018
Using artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques, researchers at Shiley Eye Institute at UC San Diego Health and University of California San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues in China, Germany and Texas, ...

Gut microbes protect against sepsis—mouse study

February 22, 2018
Sepsis occurs when the body's response to the spread of bacteria or toxins to the bloodstream damages tissues and organs. The fight against sepsis could get a helping hand from a surprising source: gut bacteria. Researchers ...

Breakthrough could lead to better drugs to tackle diabetes and obesity

February 22, 2018
Breakthrough research at Monash University has shown how different areas of major diabetes and obesity drug targets can be 'activated', guiding future drug development and better treatment of diseases.

Fertility breakthrough: New research could extend egg health with age

February 22, 2018
Women have been told for years that if they don't have children before their mid-30s, they may not be able to. But a new study from Princeton University's Coleen Murphy has identified a drug that extends egg viability in ...

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.