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New findings yield new insights into hydrocephalus

Scientists at the University of Aberdeen have made a discovery which provides new insights into the genetic cause of hydrocephalus - too much fluid in the brain.

Supported by the University of Aberdeen, Medical Research Scotland, the Chief Scientists’ Office and BDF Newlife, the researchers have discovered that too much of a cell surface protein in the brain of mice can cause hydrocephalus.

During normal development, brain and spinal cord cells must balance cell division, cell death and new nerve cell formation. Newly formed nerve cells move to precise locations, make appropriate connections and talk to each other using languages that include secreted small proteins such as “neuropeptides”. One of these neuropeptides is called PACAP, which binds and activates a cell membrane protein called the PAC1 receptor.

In findings published today (July 3, 2006) in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, they report details of how overproduction of the PAC1 receptor disrupts cell division and cell death, changes brain structures and causes hydrocephalus.

Dr Shen, a Lecturer at the University of Aberdeen, who worked closely with University Research Fellow Dr Bing Lang and other University colleagues, said: “Although prenatal screening and ultrasound scanning can effectively detect neural tube defects, little is available for screening or prevention of hydrocephalus. Now we shall examine whether relevant genes are altered in human patients”.

Professor Colin McCaig, Head of the School of Medical Sciences at the University of Aberdeen, added: “Drs Lang and Shen’s work is of fundamental importance both for our understanding of normal brain development and to understand how this goes wrong. We hope these finding could eventually pave the way for the development of new screening techniques and preventative treatments in the future.“

Dr Sanbing Shen on 01224 555730 and Professor Colin McCaig 01224 555747 or try via Hilary Sorrie on 01224 555706

Picture shows: A comparison of a normal mouse brain(A) and a hydrocephalic mouse brain.


Notes to Editors

Issued by the Communications Team, Office of External Affairs, University of Aberdeen, King's College, Aberdeen. Tel: (01224) 272014.

Issued on: Tuesday 4th of July 2006

Ref: 2002neural
Contact: Jennifer Phillips

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