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Cell's split personality is a major discovery into neurological diseases
Date:5/7/2009

lar events that allow this to occur" says Dr. Philip Barker, neuroscientist at the MNI, "The fact that specific signaling events in glial cells are important for inducing neuronal cell death is surprising and suggests new therapeutic targets for conditions that involve excitotoxicity."

The findings of the MNI and UdeM study represent a paradigm shift from the main model of excitotoxicity that has been in place for many years. Until now, the central idea has been that glutamate, which is released upon injury, binds to and activates the glutamate receptors on neurons triggering massive calcium entry and cell death. However, clinical trials targeting glutamate receptors have been disappointing suggesting that these receptors play only a minor role in triggering neuronal death.

The study, supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, focused on nerve cells in the retina which convey information from the retina to the brain along the optic nerve, and are the primary link between the retina and the brain. The death of these retinal neurons from excess glutamate causes vision loss in various neurodegenerative disorders including optic neuropathies.

By disrupting signaling events in surrounding glial cells, the researchers were able to protect the majority of these neurons, confirming that glial cell events play a key role in death triggered by glutamate. This new understanding of the excitotoxic cascade of nerve cell death provides clear targets for successful therapeutic intervention of a wide-range of neurological and neurodegenerative diseases.


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Contact: Anita Kar
anita.kar@mcgill.ca
514-398-3376
McGill University
Source:Eurekalert

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