Studying Early Brain Formation And Disease

New studies have found that abnormal brain functions can be detected early on in-utero as different genes are switched on and off.

New mapping has been done on fetus brains that show where certain genes are being turned on and off during the midpoint of pregnancy when crucial structures of the brain are in the middle of formation.  It’s incredibly new technology and can help pinpoint the roots of things such as autism and schizophrenia.

The human brain is often called the most complex object in the universe. Yet its basic architecture is created in just nine months, when it grows from a single cell to more than 80 billion cells organized in a way that will eventually let us think and feel and remember.

However the use of fetus brains that were aborted is causing a bit of a controversy.  I’m not even sure how I feel about it, and it kind of bothers me.  I grew up in a very conservative Christian household and always thought abortion was not a good thing.  But you could debate that for ages.  Even as a woman I feel that once you’re pregnant it’s not about your own body anymore but about two humans.

But that is besides the point.

The new mapping technology will show researchers where they can start to look for trouble signs of these and other diseases early on in the child’s life.

The second important finding from the mapping project, Lein says, is that the human brain is different from a mouse brain in ways researchers didn’t know before. These differences could explain why a number of brain drugs that work well in mice have failed badly in people.

The map also reveals just how little scientists had known about the brain of a fetus.

“It’s an enormous surprise to us that the genes that get expressed in the fetal brain don’t look anything like what we would have expected from the adult brain,” Insel says. “It’s almost as if the fetal brain is a different organ altogether.”  ( )

The whole enterprise is rather mind blowing (pardon the pun) and could perhaps enhance developments in brain science that could lead to major breakthroughs not only for autism and schizophrenia but other brain disorders as well.

What do you think?

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