Mass Spectrometry and Glial Cells

April 20, 2009

Using a new mass spectrometry technique and stem cells that can be made to produce either neurons or glial cells, a team of researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies (La Jolla, California) identified a molecular signaling pathway that is required for the production of glial cells, yielding insight into the neurobiology of Down?s syndrome and several nervous system disorders characterized by too many glial cells.

Using a new mass spectrometry technique and stem cells that can be made to produce either neurons or glial cells, a team of researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies (La Jolla, California) identified a molecular signaling pathway that is required for the production of glial cells, yielding insight into the neurobiology of Down’s syndrome and several nervous system disorders characterized by too many glial cells.

Their findings indicate that synaptojanin-1, a central component of the pathway, is essential to the production of glia, brain cells that act as neurons’ personal assistants. According to Salk professor David Schubert, who heads the Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory, “The discovery of this molecular signaling pathway promises to completely change the way we think about central nervous system maladies, allowing the development of drugs that inhibit glial proliferation and improve the prognosis of patients with a host of devastating conditions.”

In addition to Down’s syndrome, increased production of glial cells is seen in such conditions as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, other neurodegenerative disorders, and glioblastoma, the most common and malignant of brain tumors. Also, a surplus of glial cells has been found to be detrimental to the regeneration of nerves following spinal injury.