PSU Scholars Explore Nano-Links of Human Brain Cells

The research allows to detect the conditions under which Alzheimer’s disease and other related illnesses appear. Russian News Agency TASS, one of the largest news agencies worldwide, reports on the research which involves Perm State University scholars:

Russian scientists have described a mechanism that controls the ability of the human brain to change. This will help to better understand the conditions in which brain function is impaired – for example, in Alzheimer’s disease. The research results have been published in the Science Advances scientific journal, as Perm State University press service reports.

The researchers have identified the functional nano-architecture of synapses, which enable contacts between nerve cells. The article describes the structure of molecular mechanisms controlling the ability of brain to change along one’s life. The scientists determine the important role of calcium ions accumulated in ‘nano-tanks’, typical of every synapse, contributing to nerve cells’ operation.

When the synapse is triggered, the ‘nano-tanks’ is emptied, and then filled up again. The details of such  mechanism have remained previously unknown. The studies show that the ‘tank’ is strictly oriented in space and retains a kind of a memory vector.

“Alzheimer’s disease is known for the loss of synaptic contacts. For the first time ever, our article describes the molecular mechanism by which the ‘nano-tank’ can be filled without the synapses being involved. We assume that learning to control this mechanism can alleviate the symptoms of the disease and preserve memory,”

says Dr. Eduard Korkotyan, co-author, professor at Perm State University and Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel).

Learning to control this process, we reduce the consequences of many diseases associated with brain damage.

“It has been found that nanostructures within thousands of spines, located on the surface of each neuron, are capable of precisely directing calcium gradients that create rapid transients. This happens in milliseconds and less than ten thousandths of a millimeter in space. To explain such processes, we had to apply newly the theory known as statistics of extreme events “,

notes Professor Eduard Korkotyan.

In addition to Professor Eduard Korkotian and graduate student Lilia Kushnireva, the group of researchers, included Kanishka Basnayake (École normale supérieure,, France), David Mazaud (Institut Curie, France), Alexis Bemelmans (CEA Université Pierre et Marie Curie,  France), Natalie Ruach (Collège de France, France) and David Holkman (École normale supérieure, France).

Please, see the article here.

The picture shows calcium (yellow), which is transported from the synapse to the nano-tank (green) thanks to ion pumps (red). Then it moves along the arrows and stands out from the opposite side of the tank through the pore systems (blue). The whole process takes less than 1 millisecond. The tank is about 200 nanometers in size.