June 06, 2010
Genetic Activity Mapped In Mouse Hypothalamus

The genes which are active in the hypothalamus in the brain have been identified.

By analyzing all the roughly 20,000 genes in the mouse genome, the team identified 1200 as strongly activated in developing hypothalamus and characterized the cells within the hypothalamus in which they were activated. The team then characterized the expression of the most interesting 350 genes in detail using another gene called Shh, for sonic hedgehog, as a landmark to identify the precise region of the hypothalamus in which these genes were turned on. This involved processing close to 20,000 tissue sections - painstakingly sliced at one-fiftieth of a millimeter thickness and then individually examined.

While the hypothalamus is small compared to the brain as a whole it does many things including regulation of temperature, hunger, thirst, and other bodily functions. Since it is complex with many functions (e.g. it releases some hormones that regulate the pituitary gland) the scientists had to cut it into small slices to look for signs of different cells carrying out different functions.

But what's most interesting here isn't the particular genes turned on in various parts of the hypothalamus (though that is interesting and quite useful information). No, what's most interesting is that the technology exists to do this type of research.

Think about it. genes were checked for activity in 20,000 tissue slices removed from the mouse hypothalamus. That this is even possible to do such sensitive testing of gene expression on such a massive scale tells us that this sort of research is possible to do on many other tissue types. The development of gene chips and microfluidic devices is enabling orders of magnitude increases in the rates of measurement of gene activity and other activity of cells. This bodes well toward the goal of really getting control of our cells to manipulate them to do repair and rejuvenation.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 June 06 09:57 AM  Biotech Advance Rates


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