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Researchers Discover Gene Essencial to Cerebellum Formation

A study published this week in the scientific journal PNAS provides new information on the origin of different cells in the cerebellum, an important //component of the central nervous system found in all vertebrates, including humans, and the part of the brain that controls movement. The study was completed by researchers from the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona), the Department of Cell Biology of the University of Barcelona (UB), the IMIM-Hospital del Mar, Pompeu Fabra University (UPF) and Vanderbilt University (Nashville, Tennessee, USA). The main authors of the study are Dr. Marta Pascual (IRB Barcelona and UB) and Ibane Abasolo (IMIM-Hospital del Mar-UPF).

Co-author of the study, Francisco X. Real, coordinator of the Research Unit on Cell and Molecular Biology at IMIM-Hospital del Mar and Professor at the UPF, explains that "this discovery sheds new light on the mechanisms of brain formation and has potential future applications for regenerative medicine. It provides crucial insight into the manipulation of truncal nerve cells (or stem cells) and their selective differentiation into 'gabergic' neurons, or cells that contain the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and that act as inhibitors.

Eduardo Soriano, Principal Investigator of the Developmental Neurobiology and Regeneration laboratory at IRB Barcelona, and professor at the UB, maintains that the study explains two important principles: first, "that the protein Ptf1a/p48 is needed for the production and differentiation of Purkinje neurons, the most important cells in the cerebellum"; and second, "that in the absence of this protein, the progenitor cells that should produce Purkinje neurons do not differentiate correctly and instead produce a different type of neuron, granular cells, indicating that Ptf1a/p48 acts as a molecular switch."

The researchers hypothesized that a transcription factor, whose function is well known in the pancreas and whi
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