【基因还能“关掉”?人类第一次】

【基因还能“关掉”?人类第一次】美国科研团队近期发现,人们之所以会得阿尔茨海默氏症和精神分裂症以及抑郁症是由大脑中的某些基因决定的,研究人员现利用医疗科技能够抑制大脑中的这些基因,从而治疗阿尔茨海默氏症、精神分裂症以及轻度抑郁症。

Genes are seen 'switching off' in the brain for the first time: Breakthrough could help treat Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia

  • Imaging breakthrough shows changes to gene expression in real-time
  • Researchers tagged an enzyme involved in regulating activity of genes
  • Areas of highest density in scans showed where genes were inhibited
  • The team believes it could provide new insight to diseases of the brain

Neuroscientists have captured a glimpse of genes flicking ‘off’ inside the human brain in real time.

In a first of its kind study, a US team was able to capture gene expression inside living brain tissue, watching the machinery which dials activity up and down.

They believe the technique could provide new insight into the brains of people suffering conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia and chronic depression.

In an effort to find the areas of the brain with the highest gene activity, the team developed a tracer chemical which binds to an enzyme called HDAC.

This enzyme is known to alter the activity of gene expression through epigenetic modification.

When the brains of patients were scanned, they were able to see which areas had the highest density of HDAC, and so image in real-time where gene activity was being affected.

While the process had previous been tested in animals, the study marks the first time it has been used in humans.

It opens up possibilities of using the technique to look for real-time differences in gene expression of patients with neurological conditions, and even the impact of their lifestyle and environment.

 

The HDAC enzyme is known to alter the activity of gene expression through a process called epigenetic modification. This fluid process is key in regulating the activity of genes and can be affected by environmental factors – in everything from diet to stress

‘The ability to image the epigenetic machinery in the human brain can provide a way to begin understanding interactions between genes and the environment,’ said Dr Jacob Hooker, a radiologist at Harvard Medical School’s Martinos Center, who led the research.

Dr Hooker added: ‘This could allow us to investigate questions such as why some people genetically predisposed to a disease are protected from it? Why events during early life and adolescence have such a lasting impact on brain health? Is it possible to 'reset' gene expression in the human brain?’

Using positron emission tomography (PET) scanning, the researchers imaged the brains of eight patients who had been given the chemical tracer (pictured)

Using positron emission tomography (PET) scanning, the researchers imaged the brains of eight patients who had been given the chemical tracer.

They found HDAC density was almost twice as high in regions of grey matter – dense packed regions of cell bodies – compared with regions white matter, showing areas where gene activity was being inhibited.

What’s more, uptake of HDAC was seen to be highest in the hippocampus and amygdala, showing that gene activity is highest in the brain regions dealing with memory and learning, pleasure, fear and emotional processing.

The lowest regions of expression were seen in the putamen and cerebellum – which are responsible for coordinating senses and movement.

‘HDAC dysregulation has been implicated in a growing number of brain diseases, so being able to study HDAC regulation both in the normal brain and through the progression of disease should help us better understand disease processes,’ explained Dr Hooker.

‘We've now started studies of patients with several neurologic or psychiatric disorders, and I believe Martinostat will help us understand the different ways these conditions are manifested and provide new insights into potential therapies.’

The findings are published this week in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

链接:http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3734487/Genes-seen-switching-brain-time-Breakthrough-help-treat-Alzheimer-s-disease-schizophrenia.html


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