Jul 22, 2021

Brain Cells Snap Open Their DNA To Make Memories – Extent of DNA Double-Strand Breaks Is “Surprising and Concerning”

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, genetics, neuroscience

To quickly express learning and memory genes, brain cells snap both strands of DNA in many more places and cell types than previously realized, a new study shows.

The urgency to remember a dangerous experience requires the brain to make a series of potentially dangerous moves: Neurons and other brain cells snap open their DNA in numerous locations — more than previously realized, according to a new study — to provide quick access to genetic instructions for the mechanisms of memory storage.

The extent of these DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) in multiple key brain regions is surprising and concerning, says study senior author Li-Huei Tsai, Picower Professor of Neuroscience at MIT and director of The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, because while the breaks are routinely repaired, that process may become more flawed and fragile with age. Tsai’s lab has shown that lingering DSBs are associated with neurodegeneration and cognitive decline and that repair mechanisms can falter.

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