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The ideal drug is one that only affects the exact cells and neurons it is designed to treat, without unwanted side effects. This concept is especially important when treating the delicate and complex human brain. Now, scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory have revealed a mechanism that could lead to this kind of long-sought specificity for treatments of strokes and seizures.
According to Professor Hiro Furukawa, the senior scientist who oversaw this work, "it really comes down to chemistry."
Brain - Stroke - Parts - Brain - Begin
When the human brain is injured, such as during a stroke, parts of the brain begin to acidify. This acidification leads to the rampant release of glutamate.
"We suddenly get more glutamate all over the place that hits the NMDA receptor and that causes the NMDA receptor to start firing quite a lot," explains Furukawa.
Brain - NMDA - N-methyl - D-aspartate - Receptor
In a healthy brain, the NMDA (N-methyl, D-aspartate) receptor is responsible for controlling the flow of electrically charged atoms, or ions, in and out of a neuron. The "firing" of these signals is crucial for learning and memory formation. However, overactive neurons can lead to disastrous consequences. Abnormal NMDA receptor activities have been observed in various neurological diseases and disorders, such as stroke, seizure, depression, and Alzheimer's disease, and in individuals born with genetic mutations.
Furukawa's team, in collaboration with scientists at Emory University, looked for a way to prevent over-firing...
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