Brain DNA `changes through life`

Updated: Oct 30, 2011, 16:48 PM IST

London: Researchers have discovered that brain cells change their genetic make-up during a person`s lifetime, a key finding they claim could shed more light on neurological diseases.

An international team, led by University of Edinburgh, has, in fact, identified genes -- known as retrotransposons -- which are responsible for thousands of tiny changes in the DNA of brain tissue.

The researchers found that the genes were particularly active in areas of the brain linked to cell renewal.

By mapping the locations of these genes in the human genome, the researchers say that they could identify mutations that impact on brain function and that may cause diseases to develop, `The Independent` reported.

The research, published in the `Nature` journal, shows for the first time that brain cells are genetically different to other cells in the body and are also genetically distinct from each other.

The researchers are now researching whether brain tumour formation and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer`s are associated with a change in retrotransposon activity.

"This research completely overturns the belief that the genetic make-up of brain cells remains static throughout life and provides us with new information about how the brain
works.

"If we can understand better how these subtle genetic changes occur we could shed light on how brain cells regenerate, how processes like memory formation may have a genetic basis and possibly link the activity of these genes to brain diseases," Dr Geoff Faulkner, who led the team, said.

PTI