La Sapienza - Università di Roma

logo de La Sapienza per la stampa

Genes Involved in Brain Ageing Identified

A group of genes involved in brain ageing has been identified by researchers from Sapienza “Charles Darwin” Department of Biology and Biotechnology in collaboration with the Cambridge Babraham Institute. The results of the study, which have been published on Aging Cell, reveal that one of these genes, Dbx2, can determine the early ageing of neural stem cells, reducing their ability to grow.

Neural stem cells are responsible for the production of new neurons in the adult brain. As we age, these cells produce fewer neurons and this can cause the deterioration of our brain’s cognitive capacity.

The international research team compared gene activity in the neural stem cells of young and old mice, identifying 254 genes whose activities are altered in old cells. Moreover, the researchers observed that while activity was reduced in many genes, it increased in gene Dbx2.

“We managed to increase the activity of Dbx2 in young neural stem cells,” explains Sapienza Researcher Giuseppe Lupo, “thereby accelerating some aspects of the ageing process. This allowed us to observe these cells as they acquired characteristics similar to old cells and, in particular, their decreased proliferation.”

The study, which is directed by Emanuele Cacci for Sapienza University and Peter Rugg-Gunn for the Babraham Institute, could provide extremely meaningful for the advancement of our understanding of the mechanisms of cognitive decline during the ageing process.

“Now, we will try to use genetics and neural stem cells to make the cells go backwards,” explains Lupo. “We will try to make old stem cells young again. The results obtained with the neural stem cells of mice could one day also be applied to human stem cells.”

References: Molecular Profiling of Aged Neural Progenitors Identifies Dbx2 as a Candidate Regulator of Age-Associated Neurogenic Decline. - Giuseppe Lupo, Paola S. Nisi, Pilar Esteve, Yu-Lee Paul, Clara Lopes Novo, Ben Sidders, Muhammad A. Khan, Stefano Biagioni, Hai-Kun Liu, Paola Bovolenta, Emanuele Cacci, Peter J. Rugg-Gunn – Aging Cell First published: 5 March 2018 DOI: 10.1111/acel.12745