Danish researchers map out new brain mechanism
Researchers at the University of Copenhagen have documented a previously unknown biological mechanism in the brain's blood-brain barrier that helps maintain a delicate balance of glutamate, a vital signal compound in the brain.
Glutamate is the most important activating transmitter substance in the brain. Vital in small amounts, it is toxic for the brain if the concentration becomes too high. Noise on the brain's signal lines can have fatal consequences and is involved in neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, sclerosis and schizophrenia. Until now scientists believed that the glutamate balance was maintained by an interaction between different types of cells in the brain:
Scientists map new mechanism in the brain
"We now know that the blood-brain barrier also plays a vital role in the process by 'vacuuming' – so to speak – the brain fluid for extraneous glutamate, which is then pumped into the blood where it does not have a damaging effect. This is new knowledge that can have enormous impact on future drug development.
We have charted a biological mechanism that other scientists eventually can try to influence chemically, for example, in the form of medicine to limit cell death after a stroke. When the brain lacks oxygen, the glutamate level in the brain fluid increases dramatically, which kick starts a toxic chain reaction that kills cells", explains associate professor Birger Brodin.
The research results have just been published in the scientific journal GLIA.
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