Gene sparks brain cell death
A team of South Korean and US researchers have identified a killer gene that triggers the death of neural cells within the brains of mammals.
A team of South Korean and US researchers said on Thursday they have identified a killer gene that triggers the death of neural cells within the brains of mammals.
By inhibiting the gene, known as Bax, the cycle of death of neurons in brains could be prevented so that neurodegenerative illnesses such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease could be treated, the scientists said.
'We have found that the Bax gene plays a crucial role in the programmed death of neural cells in brains that generate from adult stem cells,' said Sun Woong, one of the scientists from Korea University here and Wake Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina.
Stem cells producing new neurons exist in the brains of all mammals, including humans and about 70 per cent of these neurons meet natural deaths within a month after birth.
'We have discovered that in the absence of the Bax gene, brain neurons from adult stem cells simply do not die and all of the neurons keep surviving,' he said.
Further study was needed to determine how long the neurons would survive, he added.
Many killer genes are involved in the programmed cellular suicide and the team's study identified a key mechanism of this self-destructive procedure of brain cells, he said.
The study results were published in the December 8 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, official publication of the Society for Neuroscience.
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