Navigation Links
Songbirds may hold key to advances in treatment of brain degeneration

BETHLEHEM, PA, August 5, 2008 -- Ongoing research at Lehigh University may one day help make strides toward therapeutic advances in the treatment of diseases that involve the loss of memory and brain degeneration such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and stroke. Colin Saldanha, associate professor of biological sciences, was named a recipient of a five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for "Synaptic Aromatase: A Novel Form of Estrogen Delivery." The $1.8 million grant extends a five-year NIH grant that was first awarded to Saldanha in 2002, and will allow Saldanha to move to the next phase of research.

"The brain has been mysterious for a long time and we're just starting to pick away at it," says Saldanha, who is exploring how hormones, particularly estrogen, affect the brain. "In 150-odd years, we've learned a lot about how hormones work, and the science we do here is a modest and gentle nudge toward extending the field."

Once believed to be produced exclusively in the gonads, it is now known that some hormones are being made in the synapses of the brain. "Estrogens are typically synthesized in the cell bodies of specialized cells in the ovaries, testes, adipose tissue and neurons. These modes of estrogen delivery underlie many, but not all, of the multiple actions of estrogens on the brain," Saldanha says.

Saldanha is hoping to unlock these mysteries further by exploring zebra finchesvocal songbirds that use their song as a mating call. Among these birds, the males sing, but females can't. Male songbirds will learn their song from their father, and retain their song for life.

Pre-synaptic boutons in many vertebrates contain the enzymes that make estrogen, and Saldanha has discovered that there are more pre-synaptic boutons in male songbirds than in females.

"All songbirds make high levels of estrogen in their brains," says Saldanha. "The parts of the brain that make estrogen are often the very same parts that show dramatic cycles in size. At times, some songbirds even almost double the size of particular parts of their brain."

Using transmission electron microscopy, Saldanha, along with a team of post-doctoral, graduate and undergraduate students, examines structures and chemicals inside neurons, synapses and glial cells within the brain. Using a variety of testing methods, Saldanha was able to test his synaptic hypothesis, and is ready to start on the next phase of research.

Going forward, research will seek to understand the contribution of synaptically produced estrogen to local brain areas, their source, and their physiological function. Further study will shed light on the role of synaptic estrogen in learning, memory and neuroprotection.

"Our research is basic in nature, and not clinically applied. We want to understand the phenomenon and how this is working. We know it exists, but now we need to know what it does, where it exists and how it affects behavior," Saldanha says. "We may be able to understand how hormones regulate the process of learning and memory, which is relevant to Alzheimer's, stroke and perhaps even Parkinson's."


Contact: Tricia Long
Lehigh University

Related biology news :

1. Migrating songbirds learn survival tips on the fly
2. Restoring sight, advances in fertility treatments and better visibility for pilots at FIO
3. Cardiologists and heart surgeons meet for Controversies and Advances conference
4. Lockheed Martin Advances Biometrics Portfolio Through Cooperation Agreement With Cognitec
5. Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News reports on advances in miRNA
6. Prototype terahertz imager promises biochem advances
7. Science expands Science Signaling, featuring research related to medical advances, and more
8. Analysis of RNA role in spreading disease advances study of damaging plant infections
9. Iowa State-ConocoPhillips collaboration advances 26 research projects in first year
10. Brown to host conference on advances in neurotechnology
11. Latest advances in interventional cardiology for congenital heart disease presented
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/29/2015)... 29, 2015   MedNet Solutions , an innovative ... of clinical research, is pleased to announce that it ... (MHTA) as one of only three finalists for a ... Small and Growing" category. The Tekne Awards honor ... superior technology innovation and leadership. iMedNet™ ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... Va. , Oct. 29, 2015 Daon, ... today that it has released a new version of ... customers in North America have ... IdentityX v4.0 also includes a FIDO UAF certified ... are already preparing to activate FIDO features. These customers ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... 2015  Connected health pioneer, Joseph C. Kvedar ... technology-enabled health and wellness, and the business opportunities that ... The Internet of Healthy Things . Long before ... existed, Dr. Kvedar, vice president, Connected Health, Partners HealthCare, ... moving care from the hospital or doctor,s office into ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... ... Inc., on being named to Deloitte's 2015 Technology Fast 500 list of the ... manufactures AcceleDent®, a FDA-cleared, Class II medical device that speeds up orthodontic tooth ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... , Nov. 24, 2015 Capricor ... company focused on the discovery, development and commercialization of ... Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer, is scheduled to present at ... 2015 at 10:50 a.m. EST, at The Lotte New ... . . --> ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... 2015  PDL BioPharma, Inc. (PDL) (NASDAQ: PDLI ) ... president and chief executive officer, will present at the 27 ... New York City . The presentation will ... 2015 at 9:30 a.m. EST. and ... at least 15 minutes prior to the presentation to allow ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... 24, 2015 , ... Whitehouse Laboratories is pleased to announce that it has ... be strictly dedicated to basic USP 61, USP 62 and USP 51 testing specific ... complete chemistry and micro testing performed by one supplier. Management has formally ...
Breaking Biology Technology: