Neurodegenerative Disease Researchers Have Identified How Our Brain Cells Die and It’s Really, Really a Breakthrough

brain cells death
Photo shows an illustration of how the brain processes emotions. Studies about the brain abound.

Why do brain cells die and people suffer debilitating illness such as stroke? Neurodegenerative disease research shows that there is a mechanism chain leading to brain cell death that, in turn, may lead to the cognitive decline or some irreparable condition.

The mechanism, common to various types of brain diseases, involves proteins eating away at a cell’s DNA. This process is called parthanatos.

Such an insight was uncovered in a previous study published in 2011. It detailed how a protein, that researchers referred to as mitochondrial apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF), is involved in the carving up of the genome housed in the cell’s nucleus.

The Common Mechanism Chain Setting Off Series of Unfortunate Events

When it leaves its usual spot in the mitochondria, the protein called AIF is believed not to translocate to the nucleus or mediate cell death after PARP-1 (the highly conserved DNA-binding protein) activation.

That protein that AIF binds with was identified by Yingfei Wang (from the Southwestern Medical Center of University of Texas) as the macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF), which transports it to the nucleus, where the MIF eats away at the cell’s DNA. The MIF works in tandem with AIF.

Yingfei worked with the Johns Hopkins team of Dr. Ted Dawson and Valina Dawson, who studied survival pathways in the cell and explored Parkinson’s disease, along with other authors including Jean-Francios Haince of Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Quebec.

The John Hopkins team likewise presented findings on related neurodegenerative disease research in another scientific journal. The team highlighted the fact that when brain tissue is subjected to a stressful but not lethal insult, a defense response occurs that protects cells from subsequent insult. In the simplest terms, what does not kill brain cells can help make it stronger.

How the Finding Spells Breakthrough

Scientists have investigated the mysteries of the brain since earliest times, but the research finding on the common pathway is regarded as a breakthrough in battling neurodegenerative disorders. It underscores what steps can be done to prevent the movement of cell-death-inducing factor (AIF) into a cell’s nucleus.

In the meantime, there are ways to ensure brain health, beginning with eating nourishing food and getting enough sleep. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, avoiding drugs and chemicals are also advisable.

Keeping informed on latest findings like recent neurodegenerative disease research may also have payoffs.

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