New finding may have implications for schizophrenia, autism

Washington, Feb 10 (ANI): A surprising mechanism that controls brain formation has been unveiled by a study from The Scripps Research Institute.

The findings have implications for understanding a host of diseases, including some forms of mental retardation, epilepsy, schizophrenia, and autism.

In the new study, Scripps Research Professor Ulrich Mueller and colleagues focused on a protein called reelin. They found reelin is a key player in the migration of new nerve cells to the neocortex, the part of the brain responsible for higher-order functions, such as language and movement.

Unexpectedly, the scientists also found reelin affects this migration process independent of glial cells, which often act to guide such nerve cell movement.

As the human brain develops, newly formed nerve cells travel from their place of origin to different brain regions. Once they reach their appropriate destination, nerve cells connect to one another to form the intricate circuits and networks responsible for various brain functions. Anything that disrupts the course of this nerve cell migration results in an improperly formed brain-and the consequences are typically devastating.

Although the mechanism by which reelin affects migration is not fully understood, Mueller's group has identified some of the molecules reelin "talks" to in order to produce its effect.

Another well-known class of molecules that play a role in brain formation consists of the cadherins-these proteins provide a molecular "glue" for cells to stick to one another as they move. Mueller and colleagues showed that reelin controls the function of cadherins in nerve cells.

The study has been published in the journal Neuron.(ANI)

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