Belgian scientists discover gene that was important for human brain growth

Belgian professor Pierre Vanderhaeghen (ULB) of the Centre for Brain Research at VIB-KU Leuven and his team have discovered a new gene. They believe it was essential for the growth of the human brain. The discovery may be important to better understand all kinds of brain disorders. 

Throughout evolution, the human brain has evolved into a very complex organ, essential for the success of our species. How the human brain evolved and differed from other great apes is still largely unclear, but scientists assume that specific human genes played a crucial role. 

One such gene is the CROCCP2 gene. Initially thought to be inactive, it is responsible for the great diversity of cells in the brain, argue Vanderhaeghen and his team. The gene is highly active in foetal brains and is essential for the quantity and diversity of cells. 

The professor's team also showed that the CROCCP2 gene works by enhancing a response pathway called 'mTOR'. That pathway is crucial for cell growth and is impaired in people suffering from autism spectrum disorders or brain tumours. According to the team, this illustrates how our brains have developed a susceptibility to some diseases by becoming larger and more complex. The research is therefore important to better understand those diseases.



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