Nav: Home

Lipid metabolism controls brain development

May 07, 2020

Neural stem cells are not only responsible for early brain development - they remain active for an entire lifetime. They divide and continually generate new nerve cells and enable the brain to constantly adapt to new demands. Various genetic mutations impede neural stem cell activity and thus lead to learning and memory deficits in the people affected. Very little has hitherto been known about the mechanisms responsible for this.

Enzyme regulates brain stem cell activity

An international research team led by Sebastian Jessberger, professor at the Brain Research Institute at the University of Zurich (UZH), is now demonstrating for the first time that a lipid metabolism enzyme regulates the lifelong activity of brain stem cells, in a study published in Cell Stem Cell. This enzyme - known as fatty acid synthase (FASN) - is responsible for the formation of fatty acids. A specific mutation in the enzyme's genetic information causes cognitive deficits in affected patients.

Headed by postdoc Megan Bowers and PhD candidates Tong Liang and Daniel Gonzalez-Bohorquez, the researchers studied the genetic change of FASN in the mouse model as well as in human cerebral organoids - organ-like cell cultures of the brain that are formed from human embryonic stem cells. "This approach allows us to analyze the effects of the defective enzyme in the brains of adult mice and during early human brain development in parallel," explains Jessberger. The research involved altering the genetic information of both the mice and the human organoids experimentally so that the lipid metabolism enzyme exhibited the exact mutation that had been found in people with cognitive deficits.

Diminished stem cell activity reduces cognitive performance

The FASN mutation led to reduced division of stem cells, which constantly generate new nerve cells, both in mice and in human tissue. The hyperactivity of the mutated enzyme is responsible for this, since fats accumulate inside the cell, putting the stem cells under stress and reducing their ability to divide. Similar to cognitive deficits found in affected people, mice also displayed learning and memory deficits due to the mutation. "Our results provide evidence of the functional correlation between lipid metabolism, stem cell activity and cognitive performance," says Jessberger.

The mechanism now identified shows how lipid metabolism regulates neuronal stem cells activity and thus influences brain development. "The new discoveries regarding learning and memory deficits in people were only made possible by linking our research on animal models and in human cells," stresses Jessberger. According to the research scientists, their methodology provides a "blueprint" for conducting detailed research into the activity of brain stem cells and their role in cognitive processes, and therefore for achieving a better understanding of poorly understood diseases.

Stem cells as a therapeutic objective for brain diseases

"In addition, we hope that it will be possible to control stem cell activity therapeutically to use them for brain repair - for example for the future treatment of cognitive disorders or in association with diseases that involve the death of nerve cells, such as Parkinson's disease or Alzheimer's disease," says Sebastian Jessberger.
-end-


University of Zurich

Related Science Articles:

75 science societies urge the education department to base Title IX sexual harassment regulations on evidence and science
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today led 75 scientific societies in submitting comments on the US Department of Education's proposed changes to Title IX regulations.
Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, biopharma, and pharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2018 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.
Science in the palm of your hand: How citizen science transforms passive learners
Citizen science projects can engage even children who previously were not interested in science.
Applied science may yield more translational research publications than basic science
While translational research can happen at any stage of the research process, a recent investigation of behavioral and social science research awards granted by the NIH between 2008 and 2014 revealed that applied science yielded a higher volume of translational research publications than basic science, according to a study published May 9, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xueying Han from the Science and Technology Policy Institute, USA, and colleagues.
Prominent academics, including Salk's Thomas Albright, call for more science in forensic science
Six scientists who recently served on the National Commission on Forensic Science are calling on the scientific community at large to advocate for increased research and financial support of forensic science as well as the introduction of empirical testing requirements to ensure the validity of outcomes.
World Science Forum 2017 Jordan issues Science for Peace Declaration
On behalf of the coordinating organizations responsible for delivering the World Science Forum Jordan, the concluding Science for Peace Declaration issued at the Dead Sea represents a global call for action to science and society to build a future that promises greater equality, security and opportunity for all, and in which science plays an increasingly prominent role as an enabler of fair and sustainable development.
PETA science group promotes animal-free science at society of toxicology conference
The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. is presenting two posters on animal-free methods for testing inhalation toxicity at the 56th annual Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting March 12 to 16, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland.
Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science and Public Engagement
James Wynn's timely investigation highlights scientific studies grounded in publicly gathered data and probes the rhetoric these studies employ.
Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, pharma, and biopharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2016 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.
Three natural science professors win TJ Park Science Fellowship
Professor Jung-Min Kee (Department of Chemistry, UNIST), Professor Kyudong Choi (Department of Mathematical Sciences, UNIST), and Professor Kwanpyo Kim (Department of Physics, UNIST) are the recipients of the Cheong-Am (TJ Park) Science Fellowship of the year 2016.
More Science News and Science Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Our Relationship With Water
We need water to live. But with rising seas and so many lacking clean water – water is in crisis and so are we. This hour, TED speakers explore ideas around restoring our relationship with water. Guests on the show include legal scholar Kelsey Leonard, artist LaToya Ruby Frazier, and community organizer Colette Pichon Battle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#568 Poker Face Psychology
Anyone who's seen pop culture depictions of poker might think statistics and math is the only way to get ahead. But no, there's psychology too. Author Maria Konnikova took her Ph.D. in psychology to the poker table, and turned out to be good. So good, she went pro in poker, and learned all about her own biases on the way. We're talking about her new book "The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win".
Now Playing: Radiolab

Uncounted
First things first: our very own Latif Nasser has an exciting new show on Netflix. He talks to Jad about the hidden forces of the world that connect us all. Then, with an eye on the upcoming election, we take a look back: at two pieces from More Perfect Season 3 about Constitutional amendments that determine who gets to vote. Former Radiolab producer Julia Longoria takes us to Washington, D.C. The capital is at the heart of our democracy, but it's not a state, and it wasn't until the 23rd Amendment that its people got the right to vote for president. But that still left DC without full representation in Congress; D.C. sends a "non-voting delegate" to the House. Julia profiles that delegate, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, and her unique approach to fighting for power in a virtually powerless role. Second, Radiolab producer Sarah Qari looks at a current fight to lower the US voting age to 16 that harkens back to the fight for the 26th Amendment in the 1960s. Eighteen-year-olds at the time argued that if they were old enough to be drafted to fight in the War, they were old enough to have a voice in our democracy. But what about today, when even younger Americans are finding themselves at the center of national political debates? Does it mean we should lower the voting age even further? This episode was reported and produced by Julia Longoria and Sarah Qari. Check out Latif Nasser's new Netflix show Connected here. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.