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

available for them to follow."

The question is how young interneurons receive their 'directions' to the cerebral cortex. Several proteins play a role, says Dr. Seuntjens. "We changed the gene containing the production code for the protein Sip1 in mice so that this protein was no longer produced during brain development. In those mice, the interneurons never made it to the cerebral cortex they couldn't find the way.

That has to do with the guidance signals substances that repel or attract interneurons and thus point them in the right direction encountered by the interneurons on their way to the cerebral cortex. Without Sip1 production, interneurons see things through an overly sharp lens, so to speak. They see too many stop signs and become blocked. That overly sharp lens is Unc5b, a protein. Unc5b is deactivated by Sip1 in healthy mice. There are several known factors that influence the migration of interneurons, but Unc5b is the first protein we've isolated that we now know must be switched off in order for interneuron migration to move ahead smoothly."

The next step is to study this process in the neurons of humans. "Now that there are techniques to create stem cells from skin cells, we can mimic the development of stem cells into interneurons and study what can go wrong. From there, we can test whether certain drugs can reverse the damage. That's all still on the horizon, but you can see that the focus of research on many brain disorders and diseases is increasingly shifting to early child development because that just might be where a cause can be found."


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Contact: Eve Seuntjens
eve.seuntjens@med.kuleuven
32-016-373-136
KU Leuven
Source:Eurekalert  

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