Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Meat, egg, dairy nutrient essential for brain development

Date:
November 24, 2013
Source:
University of Montreal
Summary:
Research indicates that brain cells depend on the local synthesis of asparagine to function properly. "The cells of the body can do without it because they use asparagine provided through diet. Asparagine, however, is not well transported to the brain via the blood-brain barrier," said senior co-author of the study.

A genetic defect disrupts brain development by affecting the synthesis of asparagine, an amino acid until now thought to be non-essential. The discovery was made by researchers at CHU Sainte-Justine and the University of Montreal. This image shows MRI Images taken from a child who later died from the defect.
Credit: Universite de Montreal

Asparagine, found in foods such as meat, eggs, and dairy products, was until now considered non-essential because it is produced naturally by the body. Researchers at the University of Montreal and its affiliated CHU Sainte-Justine Hospital found that the amino acid is essential for normal brain development. This is not the case for other organs.

"The cells of the body can do without it because they use asparagine provided through diet. Asparagine, however, is not well transported to the brain via the blood-brain barrier," said senior co-author of the study Dr. Jacques Michaud, who found that brain cells depend on the local synthesis of asparagine to function properly. First co-author Josι-Mario Capo-Chichi and colleague Grant Mitchell also made major contributions to the study.

In April 2009, a Quebec family experienced the worst tragedy for parents: before the age of one, one of their sons died of a rare genetic disease causing congenital microcephaly, intellectual disability, cerebral atrophy, and refractory seizures. The event was even more tragic because it was the third infant to die in this family from the same disease.

This tragedy led Dr. Michaud to discover the genetic abnormality responsible for this developmental disorder. "We are not at the verge of a miracle drug," Michaud said, "but we at least know where to look."

The team identified the gene affected by the mutation code for asparagine synthetase, the enzyme responsible for synthesizing the amino acid asparagine. The study is the first to associate a specific genetic variant with a deficiency of this enzyme. "In healthy subjects, it seems that the level of asparagine synthetase in the brain is sufficient to supply neurons," Michaud said. "In individuals with the disability, the enzyme is not produced in sufficient quantity, and the resulting asparagine depletion affects the proliferation and survival of cells during brain development."

Potential treatment

Children who are carriers of this mutation suffer, to varying degrees, from a variety of symptoms, including intellectual disability and cerebral atrophy, which can lead to death. The Quebec family lost three infant sons to this disorder. Two of their other children are alive and healthy.

Knowledge about gene mutations can be used to develop treatments. "Our results not only open the door to a better understanding of the disease," Michaud said, "but they also give us valuable information about the molecular mechanisms involved in brain development, which is important for the development of new treatments."

For example, asparagine supplement could be given to infants to ensure an adequate level of asparagine in the brain and the latter's normal development. "The amount of supplementation remains to be determined, as well as its effectiveness," said the geneticist. "Since these children are already born with neurological abnormalities, it is uncertain whether this supplementation would correct the neurological deficits."

Creating a pediatric clinical genomics centre

To date, nine children from four different families have been identified as carriers of the mutation: three infants from Quebec, three from a Bengali family living in Toronto, and three Israelis, whose symptoms are less severe.

Dr. Michaud's team discovered the genetic mutation by comparing the complete DNA of the Quebec family's children with symptoms of the disease. The researchers then identified children, among other families, who carried the single candidate gene. The gene was revealed only in the affected children, but not in the unaffected children of the families studied.

The discovery comes at a time when CHU Sainte-Justine Mother and Child University Hospital has reached an agreement with Gιnome Quιbec to create the first pediatric clinical genomic centre in Canada. "This initiative will transform the quality of care for younger patients to ensure better prevention from childhood," says Dr. Michaud. "More than 80% of genetic diseases occur in childhood or adolescence. "This new technology will allow us to sequence all the genes in the genome and obtain a genetic portrait of the children more quickly to know which disease they suffer from and to provide treatment, if available, or when it becomes available."


Story Source:

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


Cite This Page:

University of Montreal. "Meat, egg, dairy nutrient essential for brain development." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 November 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131124231817.htm>.
University of Montreal. (2013, November 24). Meat, egg, dairy nutrient essential for brain development. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131124231817.htm
University of Montreal. "Meat, egg, dairy nutrient essential for brain development." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131124231817.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) — A medical team has for the first time given a man the ability to walk again after transplanting cells from his brain onto his severed spinal cord. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Portable Breathalyzer Gets You Home Safely

Portable Breathalyzer Gets You Home Safely

Buzz60 (Oct. 21, 2014) — Breeze, a portable breathalyzer, gets you home safely by instantly showing your blood alcohol content, and with one tap, lets you call an Uber, a cab or a friend from your contact list to pick you up. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) — A new study says the season you're born in can determine your temperament — and one season has a surprising outcome. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Movies Might Desensitize Violence For Parents, Not Just Kids

Movies Might Desensitize Violence For Parents, Not Just Kids

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) — A study suggests that parents become desensitized to violent movies as well as children, which leads them to allow their kids to view violent films. 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