A paper published online today in Nature Neuroscience reveals the presence of methyl CpG binding protein 2 (MeCP2) in glia. MeCP2 is a protein associated with a variety of neurological disorders, including Rett Syndrome, the most physically disabling of the autism spectrum disorders. The researchers show that MeCP2-deficient astrocytes (a subset of glia) stunt the growth of neighboring neurons. Remarkably, these neurons can recover when exposed to normal glia in culture.
The discovery was made by Gail Mandel, Ph.D. of the Vollum Institute at Oregon Health and Science University and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and Nurit Ballas, Ph.D., a research associate, at the time, in the Mandel lab at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Dr. Mandel is a scientific advisor of the Rett Syndrome Research Trust (RSRT) a recently formed nonprofit organization intensively focused on the development of treatments and cures for Rett Syndrome and related MECP2 disorders.
Rett Syndrome strikes little girls almost exclusively, with first symptoms usually appearing before the age of 18 months. These children lose speech, motor control and functional hand use, and many suffer from seizures, orthopedic and severe digestive problems, breathing and other autonomic impairments. Most live into adulthood, and require total, round the clock care. Individuals with Rett and their families suffer the emotional and financial cost of the wide range of symptoms and the ongoing struggles to address them.
Glial cells, which reside throughout the nervous system, comprise the vast majority (90%) of cells in the brain. Glia support and interact with neurons in innumerable ways, from providing the structural underpinnings and guidance of axons and dendrites (the neuronal processes that carry information), to creating protective insulation for axons. These and other glial functions are essential to the health of neurons.
|Contact: Monica Coenraads|
Rett Syndrome Research Trust