Breaking the Brain Clock Predisposes Nerve Cells to NeurodegenerationPosted: November 25, 2013
Breaking the Brain Clock (BMAL1) Predisposes Nerve Cells to Neurodegeneration
Findings point to possible ways to fight some age-related diseases
New research now reveals that the nerve cells of these mice with broken clocks show signs of deterioration before the externally visible signs of aging are apparent, raising the possibility of novel approaches to staving off or delaying neurodegeneration – hallmarks of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. Erik Musiek, M.D., Ph.D., who was a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Garret FitzGerald, M.D., director of the Institute of Translational Medicine and Therapeutics,Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, took on this project four years ago. Musiek, now an assistant professor at Washington University, completed this line of research over the last two years in the lab of David Holtzman, M.D., also at WashU. The Penn-WashU team found that the expression of certain clock genes, includingBmal1, plays a fundamental role in delaying emergence of age-related signs of decay in the brain. The clock proteins appear to do this by protecting the brain against oxidative stress – a process akin to rusting – that is normally controlled by enzymes that degrade harmful forms of oxygen generated in the course of normal metabolism. Their findings appear this week in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.