Karela Fry

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Understanding the brain

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This abstract in Nature Neuroscience has been reported across the globe:

We isolated the postsynaptic density from human neocortex (hPSD) and identified 1,461 proteins. hPSD mutations cause 133 neurological and psychiatric diseases and were enriched in cognitive, affective and motor phenotypes underpinned by sets of genes. Strong protein sequence conservation in mammalian lineages, particularly in hub proteins, indicates conserved function and organization in primate and rodent models. The hPSD is an important structure for nervous system disease and behavior.

A fair translation was put out by

The human brain is a labyrinth of millions of specialised nerve cells interconnected by billions of electrical and chemical pathways called synapses.

Within these synapses are proteins that combine together, forming a molecular machine known as the post-synaptic density, or PSD, which is believed to disrupt synaptic functioning, causing disease and behavioural change.

Reporting in the journal Nature Neuroscience, Seth Grant of Britain’s Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute led a team that extracted PSDs from synapses of patients undergoing brain surgery.

“We found over 130 brain diseases involve the PSD — far more than expected,” said Grant. “The human PSD is at centre stage of a large range of human diseases affecting millions of people.”

Besides common and debilitating neurodegenerative disorders, these include epilepsies and childhood development diseases such as autism.

Unexpectedly, the study also revealed the proteins in PSDs have deep evolutionary roots and play an indirect role in cognitive behaviours such as learning and memory, as well as emotion and mood.

Compared with other gene-encoded proteins, the PSD proteins evolved much more slowly.

“The conservation of the structure of these proteins suggests that the behaviours governed by the PSD and the diseases associated with them have not changed much over many millions of years,” Grant said.

It also shows that the synapses in rodents are more similar to humans than previously thought, suggesting that mice and rats are good models for examining human brain disease, he said.

Brain disease and disorders are the leading cause of medical disability in the developed world, according to the UN’s World Health Organization.

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Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

December 20, 2010 at 7:05 pm

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