Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Brain grows while body starves if growth is restricted before birth

Date:
September 1, 2011
Source:
Cell Press
Summary:
When developing babies are growth restricted in the womb, they are typically born with heads that are large relative to their bodies. The growing brain is protected at the expense of other, less critical organs. Now, researchers unearth new molecular evidence that explains just how the brain is spared.

When developing babies are growth restricted in the womb, they are typically born with heads that are large relative to their bodies. The growing brain is protected at the expense of other, less critical organs. Now, researchers reporting in the August 5th issue of Cell, a Cell Press publication, unearth new molecular evidence that explains just how the brain is spared.

In studies of rapidly growing fruit fly larvae, they've traced this developmental phenomenon to the activity of a gene called Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase (ALK).

"ALK breaks the link between dietary nutrients and neural growth," said Alex Gould of the Medical Research Council's National Institute for Medical Research in London.

The first step for Gould's team was to find out if they could reproduce the same kind of brain sparing known to occur in humans in the lab. They looked at fruit flies in their larval stages because that's when they do most of their growing.

"If you restrict dietary nutrients at the late larval stage, body tissues shut down growth completely yet the neural stem cells in the brain continue growing at close to 100 percent," Gould said. The question is how.

The researchers got their first surprise when they disabled the nutrient sensing pathways that respond to amino acids and insulin, both of which were known to be essential for the growth of many different tissues. Without those pathways in working order, most parts of the fly body did indeed stop growing, but brain neural stem cells "just kept on going."

Further investigation revealed that activation of ALK in the brain allows neural stem cells to grow without the usual need for insulin and amino acid signals. In other words, ALK converts cells from their usual nutrient-sensitive state to a nutrient-responsive one, Gould explained.

As the name suggests, ALK was first identified for its role in lymphomas and has since been found in many other forms of human cancer. The new findings uncover a previously unknown molecular link between stem cell growth and cancer.

"It's interesting. We think of cancer cells as being able to outgrow normal healthy cells," Gould said. "So it appears that ALK can give cells a growth advantage in contexts as diverse as human cancers and developing fruit flies."

The fruit flies now offer an experimental model for intra-uterine growth restriction (IUGR) in humans, which may lead to a greater understanding of the genes and pathways involved. "I don't want to over-speculate," Gould said, "but, in the future, this genetic model may also shed light on the related issue of why IUGR predisposes individuals to metabolic disease later on in adult life."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cell Press. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Louise Y. Cheng, Andrew P. Bailey, Sally J. Leevers, Timothy J. Ragan, Paul C. Driscoll, Alex P. Gould. Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase Spares Organ Growth during Nutrient Restriction in Drosophila. Cell, Volume 146, Issue 3, 435-447, 5 August 2011 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2011.06.040

Cite This Page:

Cell Press. "Brain grows while body starves if growth is restricted before birth." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 September 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110804123849.htm>.
Cell Press. (2011, September 1). Brain grows while body starves if growth is restricted before birth. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110804123849.htm
Cell Press. "Brain grows while body starves if growth is restricted before birth." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110804123849.htm (accessed April 23, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Big Pharma Braces for M&A Wave

Big Pharma Braces for M&A Wave

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 22, 2014) Big pharma on the move as Novartis boss, Joe Jimenez, tells Reuters about plans to transform his company via an asset exchange with GSK, and Astra Zeneca shares surge on speculation that Pfizer is looking for a takeover. Joanna Partridge reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Study Says Most Crime Not Linked To Mental Illness

Study Says Most Crime Not Linked To Mental Illness

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) A new study finds most crimes committed by people with mental illness are not caused by symptoms of their illness or disorder. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hagel Gets Preview of New High-Tech Projects

Hagel Gets Preview of New High-Tech Projects

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is given hands-on demonstrations Tuesday of some of the newest research from DARPA _ the military's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program. (April 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Smaller Plates And Cutlery Could Make You Feel Fuller

How Smaller Plates And Cutlery Could Make You Feel Fuller

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) NBC's "Today" conducted an experiment to see if changing the size of plates and utensils affects the amount individuals eat. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins