Singapore, 18 December 2013 A recent study led by scientists from the National University of Singapore (NUS) opens a possible new route for treatment of Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a devastating disease that is the most common genetic cause of infant death and also affects young adults. As there is currently no known cure for SMA, the new discovery gives a strong boost to the fight against SMA.
SMA is caused by deficiencies in the Survival Motor Neuron (SMN) gene. This gene controls the activity of various target genes. It has long been speculated that deregulation of some of these targets contributes to SMA, yet their identity remained unknown.
Using global genome analysis, the research team, led by Associate Professor Christoph Winkler of the Department of Biological Sciences at the NUS Faculty of Science and Dr Kelvin See, a former A*STAR graduate scholar in NUS who is currently a Research Fellow at the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS), found that deficiency in the SMN gene impairs the function of the Neurexin2 gene. This in turn limits the neurotransmitter release required for the normal function of nerve cells. The degeneration of motor neurons in the spinal cord causes SMA. This is the first time that scientists establish an association between Neurexin2 and SMA.
Preliminary experimental data also showed that a restoration of Neurexin2 activity can partially recover neuron function in SMN deficient zebrafish. This indicates a possible new direction for therapy of neurodegeneration.
Collaborating with Assoc Prof Winkler and the NUS researchers are Dr S. Mathavan and his team at GIS, as well as researchers from the University of Wuerzburg in Germany. The breakthrough discovery was first published in scientific journal Human Molecular Genetics last month.
Small zebrafish provides insights into human neurodegenerative disease
SMA is a genetic disease that attacks a distinct type of n
|Contact: Carolyn Fong|
National University of Singapore