Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Protecting the brain when energy runs low

Date:
October 18, 2011
Source:
University of Leeds
Summary:
Researchers have shed new light on the way that the brain protects itself from harm when 'running on empty.'

Researchers from the Universities of Leeds, Edinburgh and Dundee have shed new light on the way that the brain protects itself from harm when 'running on empty.' The findings could lead to new treatments for patients who are at risk of stroke because their energy supply from blood vessels feeding the brain has become compromised.

Related Articles


Many regions of the brain constantly consume as much energy as leg muscles during marathon running. Even when we are sleeping, the brain needs regular fuel.

Much of this energy is needed to fire up 'action potentials', tiny electrical impulses that travel along nerve cells in the brain. These electrical impulses trigger the release of chemical messages at nerve endings, allowing the brain to process information and control bodily functions.

Normally, the bloodstream supplies enough glucose and oxygen to the brain to generate the large amount of energy required for these action potentials to be fired up. But things can go wrong if the blood vessels feeding the brain become narrowed or blocked, restricting the supply of vital nutrients.

A team led jointly by Professors Chris Peers (Leeds), Mark Evans (Edinburgh) and Grahame Hardie (Dundee) has now identified a way for the brain to protect itself when its energy supply is running low. This protective strategy, which is triggered by a protein known as AMPK, reduces the firing frequency of electrical impulses, conserving energy.

The energy-sensing protein AMPK was first discovered by Professor Graham Hardie of the University of Dundee. He said: "When we first defined the AMPK system by studying fat metabolism in the liver back in the 1980s, we had no idea that it might regulate completely different functions in other organs, like nervous conduction in the brain."

"There are drugs currently on the market that stimulate AMPK, which are used to treat other conditions. In future these and other drugs could be given to at-risk patients to give them a better chance of surviving a stroke."

Professor Chris Peers, of the University of Leeds' School of Medicine, said: "Our new findings suggest that if brain cells run short of energy, they start to work more slowly. However, it is better to work slowly than not at all. It is possible that this discovery could, in the long term, lead to new treatments for patients who have problems with circulation to the brain, placing them at higher risk of conditions such as stroke."

"This research is a good example of what can happen if you pool the expertise of research groups who work in different areas."

Full details of the work are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The research was funded by a grant from the Wellcome Trust awarded jointly to the three investigators.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Ikematsu et al. Phosphorylation of the voltage-gated potassium channel Kv2 :1 by AMP-activated protein kinase. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2011 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1106201108

Cite This Page:

University of Leeds. "Protecting the brain when energy runs low." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 October 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111017155610.htm>.
University of Leeds. (2011, October 18). Protecting the brain when energy runs low. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111017155610.htm
University of Leeds. "Protecting the brain when energy runs low." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111017155610.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Brain-Dwelling Tapeworm Reveals Genetic Secrets

Brain-Dwelling Tapeworm Reveals Genetic Secrets

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 22, 2014) Cambridge scientists have unravelled the genetic code of a rare tapeworm that lived inside a patient's brain for at least four year. Researchers hope it will present new opportunities to diagnose and treat this invasive parasite. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) A double-amputee makes history by becoming the first person to wear and operate two prosthetic arms using only his mind. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) Harvard researchers found children whose mothers were exposed to high pollution levels in the third trimester were twice as likely to develop autism. 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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

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