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Researchers find gene critical for development of brain motor center
Date:6/20/2014

Ottawa June 20, 2014 In a report published today in Nature Communications, an Ottawa-led team of researchers describe the role of a specific gene, called Snf2h, in the development of the cerebellum. Snf2h is required for the proper development of a healthy cerebellum, a master control centre in the brain for balance, fine motor control and complex physical movements.

Athletes and artists perform their extraordinary feats relying on the cerebellum. As well, the cerebellum is critical for the everyday tasks and activities that we perform, such as walking, eating and driving a car. By removing Snf2h, researchers found that the cerebellum was smaller than normal, and balance and refined movements were compromised.

Led by Dr. David Picketts, a senior scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Ottawa, the team describes the Snf2h gene, which is found in our brain's neural stem cells and functions as a master regulator. When they removed this gene early on in a mouse's development, its cerebellum only grew to one-third the normal size. It also had difficulty walking, balancing and coordinating its movements, something called cerebellar ataxia that is a component of many neurodegenerative diseases.

"As these cerebellar stem cells divide, on their journey toward becoming specialized neurons, this master gene is responsible for deciding which genes are turned on and which genes are packed tightly away," said Dr. Picketts. "Without Snf2h there to keep things organized, genes that should be packed away are left turned on, while other genes are not properly activated. This disorganization within the cell's nucleus results in a neuron that doesn't perform very welllike a car running on five cylinders instead of six."

The cerebellum contains roughly half the
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Contact: Paddy Moore
padmoore@ohri.ca
613-737-8899 x73687
Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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