Genes Implicated in Brain Aging Identified

A team of researchers from Sapienza and the Babraham Institute of Cambridge identified over 250 genes involved in brain aging. These include the Dbx2 gene responsible for slowing down the growth of neural stem cells. The study has been published in the journal Aging Cell

A group of genes implicated in brain aging has been identified by a research team at the Department of Biology and Biotechnology “C. Darwin” at Sapienza University of Rome in collaboration with the Babraham Institute in Cambridge. The results of the study, published in the journal Aging Cell, show that one of these genes, called Dbx2, can prematurely age neural stem cells, causing them to grow more slowly.

Neural stem cells are responsible for the production of new neurons in the adult brain. As we age, it becomes harder for neural stem cells to produce new neurons and this may lead to a decline in the brain cognitive abilities.
By comparing the genetic activity in neural stem cells from old and young mice, the research team has identified 254 genes that change their level of activity between young and old cells. Older cells turn some genes, including Dbx2, on and they turn other genes off.

“By increasing the activity of Dbx2 in young neural stem cells First author on the paper - Giuseppe Lupo from Sapienza says - we were able to make them behave more like older cells. In particular, changes to the activity of this gene slowed the proliferation of neural stem cells”.

The study, led by Emanuele Cacci at Sapienza and by Peter Rugg-Gunn at the Babraham Institute, may lead to an improved knowledge of the mechanisms causing cognitive decline during aging.
“We now plan to use genetics and neural stem cells - Giuseppe Lupo concludes - to try turning back the clock for older cells and rescue their growth deficit. The results obtained with mouse neural stem cells may eventually be applied to human stem cells”.


Molecular profiling of aged neural progenitors identifies Dbx2 as a candidate regulator of age-associated neurogenic decline. - Giuseppe Lupo, Paola S. Nisi, Pilar Esteve, Yu-Lee Paul, Clara Lopes Novo, Ben Sidders, Muhammad A. Khan, Stefano Biagioni, Hai-Kun Liu, Paola Bovolenta, Emanuele Cacci, Peter J. Rugg-Gunn – Aging Cell First published: 5 March 2018 DOI: 10.1111/acel.12745

Further Information

Giuseppe Lupo, Emanuele Cacci
Department of Biology and Biotechnology “C. Darwin”
T (+39) 06 4991 2323/2206

Monday, 19 March 2018

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