Thursday, June 5, 2008

Scientists find 'nervous wreck' gene

Scientists find 'nervous wreck' gene
MADISON, Wis. (UPI) -- U.S. scientists announced the discovery of a gene they call "nervous wreck" that is essential to the proper development of nerve cells in the fruit fly.

The gene governs the size of a synapse -- the junction between nerve cell endings. University of Wisconsin scientists said the gene prevents synapses from overgrowing by damping the effects of a pro-growth signal. Mutations in a human version of the "nervous wreck" gene have been linked to a severe genetic developmental disability

The 100 billion nerve cells in the human make trillions of synaptic connections to neurons, muscle cells and other cell types. Malfunctions at synapses are believed to be among the many factors leading to various neurological disorders.

Kate O'Connor-Giles, a postdoctoral fellow who led the study, said, "We really need to have a deep understanding of how all the factors involved are working together to develop rational treatments for neurological disorders associated with aberrant synaptic growth."

The researchers say their findings might speed the development of treatments for neurological disorders.

The study appears in the journal Neuron.

Copyright 2008 by United Press International
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