Posts Tagged gene

[WEB SITE] Study uncovers genetic trigger that may help the brain to recover from stroke, other injuries

Scientists have found a genetic trigger that may improve the brain’s ability to heal from a range of debilitating conditions, from strokes to concussions and spinal cord injuries.

A new study in mice from UT Southwestern’s O’Donnell Brain Institute shows that turning on a gene inside cells called astrocytes results in a smaller scar and – potentially – a more effective recovery from injury.

The research examined spinal injuries but likely has implications for treating a number of brain conditions through gene therapy targeting astrocytes, said Dr. Mark Goldberg, Chairman of Neurology & Neurotherapeutics at UT Southwestern.

“We’ve known that astrocytes can help the brain and spinal cord recover from injury, but we didn’t fully understand the trigger that activates these cells,” Dr. Goldberg said. “Now we’ll be able to look at whether turning on the switch we identified can help in the healing process.”

The study published in Cell Reports found that the LZK gene of astrocytes can be turned on to prompt a recovery response called astrogliosis, in which these star-shaped cells proliferate around injured neurons and form a scar.

Scientists deleted the LZK gene in astrocytes of one group of injured mice, which decreased the cells’ injury response and resulted in a larger wound on the spinal cord. They overexpressed the gene in other injured mice, which stimulated the cells’ injury response and resulted in a smaller scar. Overexpressing the gene in uninjured mice also activated the astrocytes, confirming LZK as a trigger for astrogliosis.

Dr. Goldberg said a smaller scar likely aids the healing process by isolating the injured neurons, similar to how isolating a spreading infection can improve recovery. “But we don’t know under what circumstances this hypothesis is true because until now we didn’t have an easy way to turn the astrocyte reactivity on and off,” he said.

Further study is needed to analyze whether a compact scar tissue indeed improves recovery and how this process affects the neurons’ ability to reform connections with each other.

Dr. Goldberg’s lab will conduct more research to examine the effects of astrogliosis in stroke and spinal cord injuries. The researchers will determine whether turning up LZK in mice in advance of an injury affects its severity. They will then measure how the formation of the compact scar helps or hinders recovery.

“It has been a big mystery whether increasing astrocyte reactivity would be beneficial,” said Dr. Meifan Amy Chen, the study’s lead author and Instructor of Neurology at the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute. “The discovery of LZK as an on switch now offers a molecular tool to answer this question.”

 

via Study uncovers genetic trigger that may help the brain to recover from stroke, other injuries

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[WEB SITE] Findings reveal how seizures can have lasting detrimental effects on memory

October 16, 2017

Although it’s been clear that seizures are linked to memory loss and other cognitive deficits in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, how this happens has been puzzling. In a study published in the journal Nature Medicine, a team of researchers reveals a mechanism that can explain how even relatively infrequent seizures can lead to long-lasting cognitive deficits in animal models. A better understanding of this new mechanism may lead to future strategies to reduce cognitive deficits in Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions associated with seizures, such as epilepsy.

“It’s been hard to reconcile how infrequent seizures can lead to persistent changes in memory in patients with Alzheimer’s disease,” said corresponding author Dr. Jeannie Chin, assistant professor of neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine. “To solve this puzzle, we worked with a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease focusing on the genetic changes that seizures might trigger in the memory center of the brain, the hippocampus, that could lead to loss of memory or other cognitive deficits.”

The researchers measured the levels of a number of proteins involved in memory and learning and found that levels of the protein deltaFosB strikingly increase in the hippocampus of Alzheimer’s disease mice that had seizures. DeltaFosB already is well known for its association with other neurological conditions linked to persistent brain activity of specific brain regions, such as addiction. In this study, the researchers found that after a seizure, the deltaFosB protein remains in the hippocampus for an unusually long time; its half-life – the time it takes for the amount of protein to decrease by half – is eight days. Most proteins have a half-life that is between hours and a day or two.

“Interestingly, because deltaFosB is a transcription factor, meaning that its job is to regulate the expression of other proteins, these findings led us to predict that the increased deltaFosB levels might be responsible for suppressing the production of proteins that are necessary for learning and memory,” Chin said. “In fact, we found that when the levels of deltaFosB increase, those of other proteins, such as calbindin, decrease. Calbindin also has been known for a long time to be involved in Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy, but its mechanism of regulation was not known. We then hypothesized that deltaFosB might be regulating the production of calbindin.”

Further investigations supported the researchers’ hypothesis. The scientists showed that deltaFosB can bind to the gene calbindin suppressing the expression of the protein. When they either prevented deltaFosB activity or experimentally increased calbindin expression in the mice, calbindin levels were restored and the mice improved their memory. And when researchers experimentally increased deltaFosB levels in normal mice, calbindin expression was suppressed and the animals’ memory deteriorated, demonstrating that deltaFosB and calbindin are key regulators of memory.

Connecting pieces of the puzzle

“Our findings have helped us answer the question of how even infrequent seizures can have such lasting detrimental effects on memory,” Chin said. “We found that seizures can increase the levels of deltaFosB in the hippocampus, which results in a decrease in the levels of calbindin, a regulator of memory processes. DeltaFosB has a relatively long half-life, therefore even when seizures are infrequent, deltaFosB remains in the hippocampus for weeks acting like a brake, reducing the production of calbindin and other proteins, and disrupting the consequent brain activity involved in memory. The regulation of gene expression far outlasts the actual seizure event that triggered it.”

The scientists found the same changes in deltaFosB and calbindin levels in the hippocampus of Alzheimer’s disease patients and in the temporal lobe of epilepsy patients. However, they underscore that it is too soon to know whether regulating deltaFosB or calbindin could improve or prevent memory problems or other cognitive deficits in people with Alzheimer’s disease. However, “now that we know that the levels of deltaFosB and calbindin are effective markers of brain activity in the hippocampus and memory function, we propose that these markers could potentially help assess clinical therapies for Alzheimer’s and other diseases with seizures,” Chin said.

Source: Findings reveal how seizures can have lasting detrimental effects on memory

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[WEB SITE] A Gene-Based Approach to Epilepsy Therapy

PHILADELPHIA — The next phase of personalized medicine in epilepsy may be therapy that is tested and targeted to the specific genetic mutation causing an individual’s seizure disorder.

A new genetic research company is the first to pair expertise in rare disease genomics with advanced analytics to provide healthcare professionals with an extensive and highly personalized evaluation on individual epilepsy patients.

Medscape Medical News spoke to Pairnomix CEO Matthew Fox during the American Epilepsy Society (AES) 69th Annual Meeting to discuss this new initiative.

According to Fox, no other company is providing this kind of precision medicine in epilepsy. The aim, he explained, is to help patients who have already been diagnosed with epilepsy and have undergone sequencing.

Scientists then replicate the mutation that has been identified, characterize it, and test drugs on it.

“Individuals who have a rare mutation that is causing their seizures in the epilepsy setting, who have nowhere to go once their mutation has been identified, can now contact us,” said Fox.

“We will take that mutation into a laboratory setting and create a replica of it. We will characterize the mutation, and we will test compounds against the mutation that might restore activity to normal.”

The company then reports this information back to the treating physician, who will ultimately make the treatment decisions along with the patient.

An estimated 2% to 4% of childhood epilepsies are genetically based. Researchers are discovering more genetic causes of epilepsies all the time.

Pairnomix’s advisory board has many heavyweights in the field of genetics, neurology, and electrophysiology. One member is epilepsy expert Orrin Devinsky, MD, professor, neurology, and director, New York University Comprehensive Epilepsy Center.

Dr Devinsky says the advantage of this new initiative is that it incorporates a targeted approach to epilepsy therapy that accelerates the process of finding an effective therapy.

Once an initial model is developed with the specific gene of interest, “multiple drugs can be screened that might be predicted to work.” For example, if a channel disorder is identified, specific calcium channel inhibitors could be tested.

If there are promising results here, the drug or drugs would then be further tested on a mouse model, he said.

“This is a precision approach where we take a specific mutation, a specific gene, and try to assess what’s the biological effect and then how best to treat that,” said Dr Devinsky. “It’s more focused and hypothesis driven, and getting to a potential therapy much sooner for a specific mutation.”

The drugs that will be tested in these models will have human safety data, stressed Dr Devinsky. “We will not be taking a drug off the shelf that has never been given to a human before; because even if works, it would be so hard to get it to a patient.”

The number of epilepsy treatment options is “in the hundreds” now, he said.

Continue —> A Gene-Based Approach to Epilepsy Therapy

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