Professor Alan Mackay-Sim looks the business - fitted chinos, boots, untucked shirt with sleeves rolled-up, natty moustache and intelligent, lively eyes. In the Queensland Brain Institute's (QBI) auditorium, Professor Bartlett tells us during the intro that Mackay-Sim used to be a hang-gliding hell man. Risk in leisure has translated to courage in the lab with the discovery that olfactory neurons continuously regenerate. This led to enquiry into why this is so and could this habit of regeneration be mimicked then applied to non-regenerating neurons.
In yesterday's seminar about the cell biology of schizophrenia, Mackay-Sim outlined the research methodology and results from the labs involved thus far. Schizophrenia is complex because the risk genes are polygenic in nature and vary from one patient to the next. Mackay-Sim's slides were fascinating to a non-scientist like me and a challenge to completely understand. The benefits of using olfactory neurons are that they are easier to harvest and grow, by testing olfactory neurons from patients with schizophrenia (Sz) and a control group they have found:
- 1700 mRNAs altered between the control group and patients
- cell cycles are reduced (Sz)
- cells are cycling faster and moving further faster (Sz)
- cyclin protein is higher, particularly D1 (Sz)
- focal adhesion kinase are fewer and smaller (Sz)
- less Reelin (which is the stop signal for cell migration in the cortex) (Sz)
- less ribosomal proteins (Sz)
- EIF2 (responsible for deciding if cells grow) also down (Sz)
There were also a few references to assays, which I think in this case is a procedure for measuring the biochemical or immunological activity of a sample - not sure if this is the same as an experiment. Word of the day MOTILITY - the ability of organisms and fluid to move without help. In my non-science world most likely to be associated with sperm - which the slides looked like, though they were not, or maybe they were - I'm NOT an expert and professors are not above pranking.
2003's Queenslander of the Year rounded out the seminar by sharing that a different lab had got almost exactly the opposite results to those mentioned above. This leaves them with a conundrum to puzzle over and solve. So my first foray into the real world of neuroscience was filled with learning.
POST SCRIPT: As my 10 year old watched me drawing MOTILITY she asked "Is that sperm?", when I answered no her next sentence was "I'm going to read WHERE DID I COME FROM now."