A Gene that can Reduce Brain Damage in Newborns

brain damage

Hypoxic ischemic brain damage is the most common cause of death in newborns. It causes a blockage in the supply of blood and oxygen to the brain for some time.

Researcher Johanne Egge Rinholm said,

The lack of blood and nutrients causes brain cells to die. These babies can then suffer from neurological disorders such as cerebral palsy.

Future of Treatment in Newborns with Brain Damage

Rinholm and her team made promising discovery regarding the future treatment of such babies at the Institute of Basic Medical Sciences. The experiments are described with the help of a receptor (a protein that triggers a response inside a cell) known as HCAR1 on mice in a new study in Life. The results indicate that the HCAR1 receptor helps in repairing brain damage.

Furthermore, after brain damage, few new cells were formed by the mice lacking the HCRA1 gene.

A group of newborn mice were used by the researchers and the HCAR1 gene for each had been removed. In contrast, the control group consisted of normal mice.

Research fellows Lauritz Kennedy and Emilie Rylund Glesaaen explained,

Whereas brain tissue in the ‘normal’ mice was partly restored during the 42 days following the brain damage, the brains of mice lacking HCAR1 showed little sign of repair. In addition, we found that the mice in the control group produced new cells that could help to repopulate the injured areas of their brain. In contrast, the mice without HCAR1 showed little regeneration of cells.

Now, the task is for the scientists to find out if this can have the same effect on humans.

Repairs Brain Tissue

Rinholm claimed, that HCRA1 is an important factor in repairing brain tissue followed by hypoxic-ischemic injury in newborns according to their data suggestions. The treatment used in humans currently is to cool down babies.

She said,

Nevertheless, many of these babies continue to suffer from long-term brain damage. So new drugs are needed that can protect the brain and help to generate new brain cells.

What is the effect of HCRA1 in humans? Is it the same?

Emphasis is on further studies to find out whether the effects of HCRA1 are similar in humans. Moreover, lactic acid gives cells energy and works with the HCAR1 gene.

Scientists have developed an interest in studying the receptor because of this connection. Furthermore, the muscles produce lactate during strenuous activities. Additionally, the brain also produces it.

She also said that experiments on mice give an indication that extra lactate helps in rehabilitation after brain damage or injury. However, the reason behind it is still not clear.

Experiments on mice indicate that injections of extra lactate can improve rehabilitation after a brain injury. But the reason for this has been unclear up until now. In much the same way as sugar, lactate can provide cells with metabolic energy. But recent research shows that lactate can also function as a signalling molecule which helps to transmit information from the surroundings to cells or between cells. This occurs when lactate binds to the HCAR1 receptor we have been researching. However, the positive role played by HCAR1 in the brain was not well understood.

Johanne Egge Rinholm


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