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Neurons – Not as alike as we once thought

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      Karan Young, M.Ed.

      In our study of the brain and of biology at large, we have been taught the cell is made up of DNA. This is not in dispute. W have also been taught that every cell has the same DNA – our individual DNA. This fact has recently come under dispute, thanks to new research. The Brain Somatic Mosaicism Network is a group of 18 principal investigators across 15 research sites. It involves more than 60 members worldwide as they research how mutations effect the DNA of individual cells. The researchers are trying to discover if these individual genetic mutations can account for several brain disorders such as autism schizophrenia and other brain-based disorders.
      The process in which individual cells have spontaneous mutation thereby creating cells without identical DNA is called Somatic mosaicism. Somatic Mosaicism can occur in any body tissue, including brain tissues and neurons. Somatic mosaicism appears to be far more prevalent than once thought. It may be how individual cell vary functions. When these mutations occur, certain disorders can occur.
      Brain neurons are some of the longest living cells in our body. If mutations do occur in this area of the brain, then the effects can be very long lasting. When mutations occur in our digestive track, the results are very short lived and therefor not noticed. Brain mutations can be lifelong. Research into this field could lead to a deeper and better understanding of the mechanisms of these psychiatric disorders. Once the mechanisms are understood, new medications and treatments may be discovered. Much more research needs to be done in this area before such treatments are possible.


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