Genetic variations in a protein that causes blood vessel growth, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), appears to cause differences in brain size.
New Haven, Conn. — The size of a key area of the brain involved in memory and mood disorders is influenced by variation in a growth factor gene that influences blood vessel growth and has been widely studied in heart disease and cancer, Yale University researchers have found.
The magnetic resonance imaging brain scanning and genetics study, published online Tuesday in the journal Biological Psychiatry, is another piece of emerging evidence suggesting that vascular endothelial growth factor, or VEGF, may be crucial to mental health. And the variations in brain volume associated with the VEGF gene suggest a possible cause of cognitive symptoms reported by some patients using anti-VEGF therapies for cancer and other diseases.
We are on the cusp of a period of great discoveries in brain genetics. Hundreds (or perhaps thousands) of genetic variations that influence personality, behavior, and intellectual abilities will be discovered in the next decade. One use of this information will be to select between embryos for implantation when doing in vitro fertilization (IVF). In fact, the ability to use the genetic discoveries to select embryos will drive a surge in the use of IVF as people try to give their kids every possible competitive advantage.
Some of the genetic discoveries will be usable by those of us who already exist. For example, it will probably become possible to use gene therapy and cell therapy to change which genetic version of VEGF a person has as a way to boost blood vessel growth in the hippocampus. This might improve memory formation and reduce depression.
Now it appears that this growth factor may also be crucial for the development and repair of the hippocampus, an area of the brain where memory is consolidated and which has been implicated in mood disorders such as depression and in dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2008 August 27 02:47 AM Brain Genetics|