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Researchers Discover Gene That Plays An Important Role In The Development Of Brain Motor Centre

Update Date: Jun 22, 2014 02:39 PM EDT

Researchers have reportedly found a specific gene, called Snf2h, that plays a critical role in the development of cerebellum. The gene is required for the proper development of a healthy cerebellum - a master control centre in the brain for balance and complex physical movements. 

Researchers added that the Snf2h gene is found in our brain's neural stem cells and functions as master regulator. 

In their study, when they removed the gene early on in a mouse's development, its cerebellum only grew to one-third the normal size. The mouse also faced difficultly in walking, balancing and coordinating its movements. 

 "As these cerebellar stem cells divide, on their journey toward becoming specialized neurons, this master gene is responsible for deciding which genes are turned on and which genes are packed tightly away," said lead researcher Dr. David Picketts, a senior scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Ottawa, in the press release. "Without Snf2h there to keep things organized, genes that should be packed away are left turned on, while other genes are not properly activated. This disorganization within the cell's nucleus results in a neuron that doesn't perform very well-like a car running on five cylinders instead of six."

"These epigenetic regulators are known to affect memory, behaviour and learning. Without Snf2h, not enough cerebellar neurons are produced, and the ones that are produced do not respond and adapt as well to external signals. They also show a progressively disorganized gene expression profile that results in cerebellar ataxia and the premature death of the animal."

However, up until now there are no studies that suggest a direct link between Snf2h mutations and diseases with cerebellar ataxia, but Dr. Picketts added that it "is certainly possible and an interesting avenue to explore." 

The research has been published in the journal Nature Communications.

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