publicado em 13/08/2012 às 12h52:00
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Scientists discover new gene related to brain development

Discovery made by researchers from UFRJ and Harvard may be the key to better understand the formation of the nervous system

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A multi-disciplinary partnership between researchers from the Institute of Biomedical Sciences, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (ICB / UFRJ) and at Harvard University in the United States, resulted in the discovery of a gene that may be the key to better understand the formation of the system nervous including the brain, in vertebrate embryos. Coordinate the ICB / UFRJ by biologist development and Scientist of Our State of Jose Garcia Abreu FAPERJ, research began in 2007. After years of painstaking work, the study resulted in the publication in June 2012, an article in the prestigious scientific journal Cell, specializing in cellular and molecular biology at the frontier of knowledge.

The new gene called Tiki was discovered by their ability to control the formation of earlier structures of the nervous system - the brain - at amphibians Xenopus laevis embryos. "In tests with amphibians at the embryonic stage, in which the gene Tiki was removed, the result was the development of embryos without brain structures. This revealed that the Tiki is necessary for correct formation of the head," says Abreu. "The name is a reference to the Tiki statues of humanoid forms and big head found in Polynesian beaches," he adds.

Precursor cells found in the formation of the embryonic head, Tiki the gene encodes an enzyme capable of inhibiting molecule WNT. This, in turn, controls a number of biological phenomena including the autorenovação tissue, and is also responsible for the formation of the head of the vertebrate. "The molecule WNT, in adulthood, is associated with degenerative and regenerative processes, and development of tumors. It acts as an intracellular signaling pathway in embryonic processes and tissue homeostasis," Abreu said.

"We understand the effects of the gene in various stages of embryonic development of the heart, intestine, tumors and also in"

The experiments with embryos of the amphibian Xenopus laevis, are being developed at the ICB / UFRJ - only laboratory in the country that has official permission to conduct research with this kind of animal. Tests conducted so far considered the effects of application of gene Tiki or not the formation of the nervous system of amphibian embryos. "We note that when the WNT is very high levels, not having received this gene Tiki, the result is the development of embryos anencephalic without brain. On the other hand, when the WNT is much diminished in embryos subjected to the effect Tiki inhibitor gene, the result is the formation of embryos with a giant head, "says developmental biologist.

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According to the researcher, the discovery is an important step to understanding human congenital diseases that affect the formation of the brain, such as anencephaly, and microcephaly excencefalia, among others. "This study opens up many future possibilities in therapy, since the molecule WNT disorders are the cause of many degenerative, congenital anomalies and also many types of cancer," said Abreu. "It is the starting point to better understand the molecular mechanisms and power in the future, think of ways to treat diseases of embryonic development," he says.

The next stage of the research that is ongoing in Rio and the United States, is to detect the gene's role in Tiki other organs and tissues of the embryo of amphibians and other vertebrates, including man, other than the brain. "We want to better understand the effects of the gene at different stages of embryonic development of the heart, intestine, and also in tumors," he concludes.

The partnership with ICB / UFRJ involves the participation of Professor Xi He, Children's Hospital Boston and the Center for Proteomics, Harvard Medical School, and researchers from two laboratories in the United States: Rockefeller University in New York and Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis. The study also includes the work of several researchers from the ICB / UFRJ: the former doctoral student and now professor at the Federal University of Espirito Santo (UFES), Karla Almeida, the PhD students Natalia Beloved and Alice Reis, and post-doctoral Natalia and Diego Aguiar Feitosa.

Source: FAPERJ
   Palavras-chave:   Gene    Genetic    Nervous system    Brain    Federal University of Rio de Janeiro    UFRJ    Harvard   
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