Duke Health Logo Recently, zinc had been observed to counter pancreatic cancer. Now, researchers from the Duke University have disclosed that zinc plays a crucial role in controlling interaction between cells in the brain, probably regulating the formation of memories and the incidence of epileptic seizures.

The scientists believe that zinc supplements are usually sold commercially to treat various brain disorders like depression. They are still unclear whether these drugs elevate the zinc content or enhance the nerve cell communication.

“We discovered that zinc is essential to control the efficiency of communication between two critical populations of nerve cells in the hippocampus. This addresses a longstanding controversy in the field,” explained James McNamara, MD, senior author and chair of the Department of Neurobiology at Duke.

Many years back, it was revealed that large proportions of zinc are present in a unique department of nerve cells namely vesicles which are touted to pack the transmitters for nerve cells to interact. The greatest amounts of nerve cells were found among the neurons of the hippocampus that has a major contribution in learning and memory.

Zinc’s prevalence in these vesicles implies that it plays a role in communication among nerve cells but has not been affirmed as yet. The team produced a special chemical that could integrate zinc swifter than compounds used initially. With this chemical they integrated the zinc given out by nerve cells, excluded it from nerve cells and prohibited improved communication.

The analysts also infer that discarding zinc from the vesicles of mutant mice apparently cuts down enhanced interactions. Also, the rise of the transmitter glutamate seemingly raised the zinc-mediated boosting of communication. Strikingly, the nerve cells with larger amounts of zinc are crucial for specific kind of memory formation. Epileptic animals appear to experience severe enhancement of communication by the nerve cells containing zinc. It may supposedly make the condition of epilepsy more acute.

McNamara concludes that adjusting zinc’s regulation of communication between these nerve cells is supposedly essential for both the formation of memories and the prevalence of epileptic seizures. Individuals taking zinc supplements should be careful, he says.

The research is published in the journal Neuron.