Seth Grant has made a career by combining his skills in molecular biology, medicine and neuroscience. Brain Science listeners may remember him best for his explorations of the evolution of the synapse (BSP 51) and in BSP 101 he told us about how small genetic changes related to synapse proteins can influence learning, but this month he shares a new paper, which describes what he calls the "genetic lifespan calendar.” The key idea is that the genes in both the mouse and human brain appear to follow a predictable schedule.
Grant’s team also found that they could predict the age of a brain by looking at its transcriptome (which mRNA is present).
It is important to emphasize that this is a surprising new discovery. If it is replicated by other researchers, it could open up entirely new research approaches. In this month’s podcast Dr. Grant explains how the research was conducted and some of its important implications. Dr. Grant has a long time interest in schizophrenia so he is particularly excited about how this research might explain why schizophrenia, which has a larger genetic component, usually emerges in young adulthood. We also touch briefly on the fact that there seems to be different calendars for males and females.
Grant observed,"this points to the bigger picture of things. There is an organization, an architecture, that is embedded in our genome, that controls not just where every molecule is in your brain and how they’re all assembled together, but when and how they change throughout the lifespan. It is truly a most extraordinary programming of the genome that gives this remarkable complexity of the brain in both space and in time. And I think this is just a fantastically exciting area.”
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Links and Reference
- Skene NG, Roy M, Grant SG (9/12/17) "A genomic lifespan program that reorganises the young adult brain is targeted in schizophrenia." eLife. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.17915.001
- Professor Seth Grant at the University of Edinburgh (includes more references)
- Previous episodes: BSP 51 and BSP 101
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