Brand-new research was published Wednesday, January 21, in the peer-reviewed journal Nature that presents fascinating data that could ultimately locate genes that boost or break down key regions in the human brain by using a “genetic blueprint.”
An international team of roughly 300 neuroscientists known as the Enhancing Neuro Imaging Genetics Through Meta Analysis (ENIGMA) used MRI data from more than 30,000 brain scans and DNA samples to find eight gene mutations that affect the size of specific parts of the brain. This pool of brain scan data was taken from 30,717 people from 33 different countries (Gregoire, 2015).
The project was made up of millions of genome variations observed by researchers at the University of Southern California to determine the ones that affected important areas of the brain seen in various neurological disorders such as autism spectrum and related disabilities, Alzheimer’s, and others.
The researchers found eight genetic mutations appearing in the brain that either wear away or reinforce brain tissue, thereby altering the “brain reserve” by 2 or 3% (University of Southern California, 2015). According to this study, these eight particular genes seem to affect how resistant our brains are to disease.
With these new data in our information base, we can potentially identify the people who would most benefit from new medicines envisioned to save brain cells by using that individual's genetic makeup to determine and formulate the appropriate treatment and tailored interventions.
This study, the largest collaborative brain study to date, was made possible thanks to a $23 million grant to the University of South California from the National Institutions of Health as part of its Big Data to Knowledge Initiative.
Hopefully, with this new information, we will be able to pave the way for new treatments for autism spectrum and other neurological disorders in the near future.
Common genetic variants influence human subcortical brain structures. (2015, January 21). Nature. Retrieved from http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature14101.html#close
Gregoire, C. (2015, January 23). Cracking the brain's genetic code. Huff Post Science. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/23/largest-study-of-its-kind_n_6523868.html
University of Southern California. (2015, January 21). Neuroscientists lead global consortium to crack brain's genetic code. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150121144839.htm