A protective molecule has been identified in the brain which, if used artificially, may prevent brain damage from the likes of stroke, head injury and Alzheimer's.
By looking at what happens in the brain after an injury, new research has finally ended speculation over whether a key molecule, 'KCC2' causes brain cell death after an injury or prevents it. The finding, published today (16th May 2011) in The Journal of Physiology now opens the door to the development of artificial forms of the compound which could provide 'neuroprotection' to those who have suffered a brain injury to prevent further damage.
Lead author of the research Dr Igor Medina from the Universit de la Mditerrane said: "Neuron damage can result from acute events such as stroke, epilepsy or head injury or by chronic degeneration found in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
"When brain tissue is damaged, cells often continue to die after the initial stimulus has stopped. So it is important to find a way of stopping this cascade of cell death."
KCC2 is known as a 'neuronal membrane transporter' and plays a valuable role in regulating brain cell growth and their connections with other neurons. Previous research has shown that the level of KCC2 drops drastically after the brain has been injured, but it was unknown whether this drop was causing the damage to the cells, or was decreasing because of it.
"The destiny of neurons in a damaged brain depends on a tiny equilibrium between pro-survival and pro-death signals. We wanted to know what KCC2 was signalling for was it killing neurons or protecting them after an injury? Our study has found that KCC2 actually rescues the damaged cells."
The team studied damaged neurons from the hippocampus region of the brain, an area responsible for attention, spatial memory and navigation. They removed KCC2 altogether from damaged cells and found they died. But when they artificially increased the levels o
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