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Scientists discover a gene, which sparks the neurogenesis – the birth of brain cells

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Posted September 6, 2017

At some point no vertebrates had brains and this is weird to think about it. At the beginning of the development of the new life, while it is still in mother‘s womb, vertebrates don‘t have brains and all of a sudden neurogenesis takes place and brain starts forming. How does that happen? Scientists from the University of York have discovered a new gene that controls this process.

Human brain is an amazing machine, but scientists still don’t fully understand what sparks the beginning of its development. Image credit: Nicolas Rougier via Wikimedia(GPL)

Neurogenesis is a process defined as the birth of brain cells. This new study may help improving our understanding about how this process starts in humans. Scientists discovered that a N1-Src gene is a key component of the process by which neural stem cells are programmed to become neurons. Scientists used tadpole models to check their hypothesis. They designed a DNA chain with N1-Src gene oppressed. This in theory should have prevented brain development completely.

Scientists predicted that without N1-Src animals would not have a functional nervous system. Their experiment was designed to show if such prediction is correct. Dr Gareth Evans, one of the leaders of the research, explained the results: “By preventing this gene from being expressed we found that neurons that usually appear in tadpoles as they develop a nervous system are absent”. But why does this mechanism work this way?

The role of the N1-Src gene is to encode the enzyme, which regulates cell growth throughout the body. In this case, N1-Src is the most active in brain development and less active in other tissues in the body. In fact, only animals with complex nervous systems have this gene, which allowed scientists to make such predictions. Some previous researches already looked into the role of the N1-Src in brain development, but they were considering this gene to be important in later stages only. This new study reveals that it is what it takes to spark the neurogenesis.

Scientists are still not completely sure about how the N1-Src gene is working. This is what the next stage of this research is going to revolve around. Scientists think that the N1-Src gene actually somehow switches on other genes responsible for brain development. Hopefully, this research someday will help people with learning disabilities and other mental disorders.

 

Source: University of York

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