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Gene That Creates Cerebral Cortex Discovered

Could led to treatments for neurological damage from injuries, disease

THURSDAY, Jan. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have identified the gene responsible for creating the brain's thinking center, in a finding that could one day help people with brain injuries and neurodegenerative diseases.

The gene, called Lhx2, tells stem cells in the developing brain to form the cerebral cortex, which controls functions such as language, decision-making and vision, according to a University of California, Irvine, study published in the Jan. 18 issue of Science. Without the Lhx2 gene, these cells wouldn't form, the researchers said.

"This new understanding of Lhx2's role in cortical development can potentially be used in stem cell research efforts to grow new cortical neurons that can replace damaged ones in the brain," Dr. Edwin Monuki, an assistant professor of pathology at the university, said in a prepared statement.

"This finding has implications for continuing efforts to help people recover from a stroke or slow the progress of neurodegenerative diseases," he said.

Researchers in Monuki's lab are now trying to activate Lhx2 genes in neural stem cells to prompt the growth of cortical cells. If successful, their efforts could led to clinical studies that could one day help treat patients, he said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about the brain.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of California, Irvine news release, Jan. 17, 2008

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