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Protein identified that can disrupt embryonic brain development and neuron migration
Date:1/14/2013

Interneurons nerve cells that function as 'dimmers' play an important role in the brain. Their formation and migration to the cerebral cortex during the embryonic stage of development is crucial to normal brain functioning. Abnormal interneuron development and migration can eventually lead to a range of disorders and diseases, from epilepsy to Alzheimer's. New research by Dr. Eve Seuntjens and Dr. Veronique van den Berghe of the Department of Development and Regeneration (Danny Huylebroeck laboratory, Faculty of Medicine) at KU Leuven (University of Leuven) has identified two proteins, Sip1 and Unc5b, that play an important role in the development and migration of interneurons to the cerebral cortex a breakthrough in our understanding of early brain development.

Two types of nerve cells are crucial to healthy brain functioning. Projection neurons, the more widely known of the two, make connections between different areas of the brain. Interneurons, a second type, work as dimmers that regulate the signalling processes of projection neurons. A shortage or irregular functioning of interneurons can cause short circuits in the nervous system. This can lead to seizures, a common symptom of many brain disorders. Interneuron dysfunction even appears to play a role in schizophrenia, autism and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and ALS.

Trailblazers

Researchers have only recently understood how different kinds of neuron are formed during embryonic development. During early brain development, stem cells form projection neurons in the cerebral cortex. Interneurons are made elsewhere in the brain. These interneurons then migrate to the cortex to mix with the projection neurons. Dr. Eve Seuntjens of the Celgen laboratory led by Professor Danny Huylebroeck explains: "The journey of interneurons is very complex: their environment changes constantly during growth and there are no existing structures such as nerve pathways
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Contact: Eve Seuntjens
eve.seuntjens@med.kuleuven
32-016-373-136
KU Leuven
Source:Eurekalert  

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