Scientists reported Thursday they have discovered a gene for a protein that helps govern brain cell communication, a potential step toward new treatments for stroke and severe head injury.
Further work also may help explain how the brain learns and remembers, scientists said."This discovery is extremely important," commented Charles Stevens of Yale Medical School, whose editorial appears with the study in the British journal Nature.
The work is the first finding of a gene that tells brain cells how to make a protein called a glutamate receptor. When this receptor senses a natural substance called glutamate outside a brain cell, it makes the cell more prone to fire off messages to neighboring brain cells.
The newfound gene is for one type of glutamate receptor, but it can be used to find genes for the other types, said study co-author Stephen Heinemann. Finding the gene is a first step toward studying a receptor's structure and behavior.