May 26, 2006 A young Australian scientist has made an important discovery about how brain cells communicate. This finding is central to understanding all brain function -- from laying down memory to being able to walk
The groundbreaking research has been published in the latest edition of world-leading journal Nature Neuroscience.
Victor Anggono, a PhD student at the Children's Medical Research Institute (CMRI), set out to identify the molecular partners of a key protein called dynamin, and how their partnership allows neurons to send messages.
The result was astounding. A protein called syndapin, previously thought to have no major role in nerve communication, was proven to be the molecule that simultaneously works with dynamin to allow the transmission of messages between nerve cells.
The brain functions by sending chemical messages between nerves. The messages, or neurotranmsitters, are held in tiny packages at the nerve terminal where they are released to send a signal. The packages then return to the cell and are re-filled so that brain function can continue.
In collaboration with researchers from the University of Edinburgh further studies have revealed that by blocking the interaction of these two proteins nerve communication shuts down.
"The partnership between dynamin and syndapin is crucial for the continous cycle of neurotransmission. This makes syndpain a very specific target for medicines that could treat conditions where there is an overload of nerve activity, such as during a seizures," said Dr. Phil Robinson leader of the research at the CMRI.
The relationship between dynamin and syndapin is also crucial to understanding other processes where there is a high level of brain activity and nerve transmission, such as when forming memories and during learning.
Dr. Robinson says, "A discovery like this will be vital for future research into many neurological disorders, such as epilepsy, conditions of memory loss and schizophrenia. It is only through research like this, that medical science can now target specific problems and develop improved treatments."
This research was funded through a grant from the National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and a scholarship from the University of Sydney as well as funds from the community donated to Jeans for Genes -- the major fundraising event of the CMRI.
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