Bracelets 4 Autism


Brain Development Steered By Newly Discovered RNA

Article Date: 16 Apr 2010 – 0:00 PDT

How does the brain work? This question is one of the greatest scientific mysteries, and neurobiologists have only recently begun to piece together the molecular building blocks that enable human beings to be “thinking” animals.

One fundamental property of the mammalian brain is that it continues to develop after birth, and one of the biggest drivers of the formation of new links between neurons is experience. Every time a baby sticks her finger on a pin or laughs in response to an adult’s embellished gestures, a cascade of genetic activity is triggered in her brain that results in new, and perhaps even lifelong, synaptic connections.

New research from the lab of Michael Greenberg, Nathan Marsh Pusey¬†professor and chair of neurobiology at HMS, in collaboration with bioinformatics specialist and neuroscientist Gabriel Kreiman, assistant professor of ophthalmology at Children’s Hospital, Boston, has found that a particular set of RNA molecules widely considered to be no more than a genomic oddity are actually major players in brain development – and are essential for regulating the process by which neurons absorb the outside world into their genetic machinery.

“This discovery may inform disorders of cognition such as autism¬†spectrum disorders,” says Greenberg. “It’s incredibly important to know all about the brain’s genetic regulatory mechanisms in order to think more deeply about how to develop therapies for treating these sorts of conditions.”

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