Johns Hopkins logoNovel discoveries of the complex human brain seem to amaze scientists worldwide. Apparently the Johns Hopkins team has pointed out a protein, nuclear factor I-A (Nfia) that helps protect the brain. After years of investigations, scientists are probably able to expose the way brain safeguards itself.

Experiments were conducted on mouse brain cells in a lab dish and whole animals. In the course of the investigations, researchers found Nfia as a central cog in a complex survival mechanism. This mechanism is ascertained to precondition brain cells for going through consequent injury. The protein generally termed as transcription factor probably regulates genes and other proteins.

When a mouse brain tissue undergoes a stressful yet not so lethal insult, a defense response may occur that guards cells challenged by a more adverse insult. During the experiments such stressful insult was probably equal to stroke in a dish. This preconditioning pathway was thoroughly scrutinized and proteins enabling this activity were ascertained.

Valina Dawson, professor of neurology and neuroscience in the Johns Hopkins Institute of Cell Engineering alleged, “Identifying these molecules might someday lead to drugs that trigger this brain survival mechanism when people have a stroke or Parkinson’s disease. Our goal in researching these preconditioning molecules is to find something that was protective not just of one kind of brain cell, but of all kinds.”

Short bursts of a toxic chemical were provided to mouse brain cells. The researchers then screened this preconditioned material for genes that turned on as an outcome of the insult. Finally proteins including Nfia were concluded to protect the brain. To scrutinize the protein, scientists increased the volume of this gene’s expression in the cells. Volume was elevated during exposure to the toxic chemical that encouraged preconditioning.

When the volume was lowered cell lacking in Nfia was seemingly unable to survive but those with more reported better results. The scientists undertook another series of experiments, wherein, whole mice were tested. A toxic chemical was injected into the brain of a control group of ‘normal’ mice. The chemical was also instilled into a group that had been genetically engineered to produce less than the normal amount of Nfia protein. Possibility of brain cell death strongly appeared in mutant mice who were Nfia deficient.

The research is published in the June online edition of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.