Discovery of a pivotal gene in the regulation of brain aging

    MONTREAL, Jan. 16 /CNW Telbec/ - Will scientists one day be able to slow
the aging of the brain and prevent diseases such as Alzheimer's and
Parkinson's? The answer is yes, but only if they can first unravel the genetic
coding associated with neuronal degeneration. A researcher at the
Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital has taken a giant step in this direction by
identifying a gene that controls the normal and pathological aging of neurons
in the central nervous system.
    The primary risk factor for diseases such as macular degeneration,
Parkinson's and Alzheimer's is age. Although many researchers have sought to
better understand the genetics and pathophysiology of these diseases, few
studies have focused on the basic molecular mechanisms that control neuronal
    Dr. Gilbert Bernier and his team have identified a mutation in mice that
dramatically accelerates the process of aging in the brain and the eye. The
new study reveals that neurons in the retina and cerebral cortex require a
gene called Bmi1 to prevent activation of the p53 pathway and the accumulation
of free radicals.
    "Overall, we have now established that the Bmi1 gene is a direct
regulator of cell aging in brain and retinal neurons of mammals through its
action on the defense mechanisms against free radicals," explained Dr.
Bernier, whose study was published in the January 14, 2009 issue of the
prestigious The Journal of Neuroscience.
    The article entitled "The Polycomb Group Gene Bmi1 Regulates Antioxidant
Defenses in Neurons by Repressing p53 Pro-Oxidant Activity" is the work of Dr.
Gilbert Bernier in collaboration with Wassim Chatoo, Mohammed Abdouh, Jocelyn
David, Marie-Pier Champagne, José Ferreira from the Research Centre of the
Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital and Francis Rodier from the Berkeley National
Laboratory in San Francisco.

For further information:

For further information: Pascal Mailhot, External Communications
Coordinator, (514) 942-0186

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