X-Message-Number: 12622
Date: Sat, 23 Oct 1999 14:52:25 -0400
From: Jan Coetzee <>
Subject: re-stimulated the growth of brain cells

Brain cell-stimulating pathway may help
 treat diseases

 NEW YORK, Oct 22 (Reuters Health) -- Researchers from Yale
 University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, report that
 the growth of brain cells, which normally ends in adolescence, can be
 re-stimulated using a mechanism dubbed ''Notch'' signaling.

 The finding may pave the way toward a better understanding of
 Alzheimer's disease and other brain disorders, the investigators

 Brain cells or neurons grow rapidly by extending branches or neurites
 that connect to other neurons from birth until adolescence, when they
 stabilize. These nerve branches are important for brain functions, such

 as forming long-term memories. Previous research has suggested that
 the Notch signal mechanism dictates when a neuron should extend its
 branches. Like a light switch, the Notch signal can be turned on and
 off, according to a report published in the October 22nd issue of the
 journal Science. And now scientists have figured out how the process
 is controlled.

 It is possible that Notch signaling may play a role in the memory loss
 that occurs with Alzheimer's disease, the researchers speculate.

 ``One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease is the alteration of
 cell processes that can lead to irreversible memory loss and
 (intellectual) abilities characteristic of the disorder,'' lead
 Dr. Pasko Rakic, professor and chair of neurobiology at Yale,
 commented in a press release. ``While we are still trying to determine
 what role Notch signaling plays in Alzheimer's, the results of this
 study could open possibilities for treating and preventing these kinds
 of brain disorders.''

 In a telephone interview with Reuters Health, Rakic added, ''Our
 results not only help in our understanding of brain development, but
 they also have considerable implications for designing new treatments
 for many neurological disorders. Now we are looking for the way to
 keep old neurons healthy and stable so they don't lose memory

 Approximately 4 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, a
 progressive, degenerative disease that attacks the brain and results in

 impaired memory, thinking and behavior, according to the Alzheimer's
 Association in Chicago, Illinois.

 SOURCE: Science 1999;286:741-746.

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