Over 130 brain diseases linked to synapse proteins

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There are now over 1000 molecular suspects for brain diseases and some of them are “˜repeat offenders’. Scientists have analysed a set of proteins in the synapses within the brain that play a role in over 130 diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy.

The brain is composed of millions of nerve cells, which are connected in turn by billions of synapses. The synapses each contain proteins which bind together and form a “˜molecular machine’ called the postsynaptic density (PSD), which was suggested to be important to human behaviour and diseases from studies of animal synapses.

The researchers at the Welcome Trust Sanger Institute and Edinburgh University, led by Professor Seth Grant, extracted the PSDs from synapses of patients undergoing brain surgery. Using a method known as proteomics, they revealed that the synapses are made up of 1461 proteins, each encoded by a different gene.

This discovery enabled the researchers to identify the diseases that affect the synapses. Professor Grant said that over 130 diseases (more than expected) affect the PSD, including epilepsies, forms of autism, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Professor Jeffrey L Noebels, Professor of Neurology, Neuroscience and Human Genetics at Baylor College of Medicine (Texas), says there is now a list of 1000 suspects and some are working overtime, saying in a press release: “Every seventh protein in this line-up is involved in a known clinical disorder, and over half of them are repeat offenders”.

According to the World Health Organisation, brain diseases are the leading cause of medical disability. These findings have suggested new ways of treating these diseases, such as developing new tests to help doctors classify the diseases and developing treatments, based on the proteins, which can treat a number of diseases.

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