Scientists at the VIB and KU Leuven laboratory in Belgium have uncovered new research surrounding the regulation of stem cells in zebrafish, which has led to a better understanding on how the brain of Alzheimer's and dementia patients work.
The investigation looks at stem cells in the fish, which have not yet developed into nerve cells, as they are crucial for brain development. The outcome of the research has led to surprising insights into neurodegenerative disease processes.
Zebrafish have been used as a model in the molecular brain research as they carry the same cells as humans, and the genetic code of the fish and humans is more than 90 per cent identical, allowing scientists to mimic factors that occurs in Alzheimer's and dementia.
The testing has led to the discovery of a previously unknown regulatory process for the development of nerve cells which leads to the growth of the condition.
MiRNA-132 is the molecule that regulates the expression levels of other genes through several mechanisms. The concentration of the particle is significantly reduced in the brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease.
This is due to the notch signalling pathway that regulates cells during early embryonic development still being relatively unknown in the brains of patients.
Further tests are to be made allowing scientists to examine in detail how the brain of a person with Alzheimer's works, so medical professionals have a greater understanding.
Evgenia Salta, a scientist in the team involved in the discovery, said: "The human brain contains stem cells, which are cells that have not matured into nerve cells yet, but do have the potential to do this."
She continued to say: "Similar stem cells exist in zebrafish, therefore they form an ideal model to study the behaviour of these cells."
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