The research focuses on the CPEB4 protein, a key molecule in the development of this neurological disorder.
The award is a joint initiative of La Vanguardia and the Fundació Catalunya-La Pedrera.
For the fifth consecutive year, the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) has been nominated for the “Vanguardia de la Ciencia” Award, thanks to research into autism, done in collaboration with the Centre for Molecular Biology "Severo Ochoa" (CBMSO), which belongs to the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC). The work in question established that the CPEB4 protein, which coordinates the expression of hundreds of genes necessary for neuronal activity, is altered in the brains of patients with this neurological disorder.
The scientists Raúl Méndez, head of the Translational Control of Cell Cycle and Differentiation laboratory at IRB Barcelona, and José J. Lucas, at CSIC, were addressing the influence of CPEB proteins in Huntington’s disease when they discovered that these proteins orchestrate the genome, which regulates the activity of thousands of genes.
CPEB proteins determine whether these genes are activated or silenced at the correct time during embryonic development. The scientists observed that in mouse models of Huntington’s disease, the alteration in CPEBs affected the genes associated with predisposition to autism.
Both researchers believe that a strategy to restore CPEB4 activity in the brains of those affected would improve the treatment of autism spectrum disorder. This study is a clear example of the tight association between basic biomedicine research and our knowledge of diseases.
Published in the journal Nature, the study concludes that a defect in CPEB4 could be the link between environmental factors that alter brain development and the genes that determine susceptibility to autism.
The “Vanguardia de la Ciencia” Award, a joint initiative of the La Vanguardia newspaper and the Fundació Catalunya-La Pedrera, seeks to increase the visibility of scientists conducting frontier research and bring this research closer to society. Candidate selection has been based on two criteria, namely the excellence of the research and that this research has been headed by a Spanish institution.
Research in the fields of physics, chemistry and social science selected by an interdisciplinary scientific committee has also been nominated.
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