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Metabolomic approach could shed light on neurodegenerative processes

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A recently published paper outlines how researchers at the University of Luxembourg (Luxembourg) analyzed the metabolic profiles of various brain regions in mice. The regions appeared to be characterized by their own metabolic signatures, which differed in mice with excitotoxic injury (a mechanism of neurodegeneration). The team’s findings could therefore help to advance our understanding of neurodegenerative diseases.

Neurodegeneration is a complex process that has typically been studied by focusing on specific pathological alterations. For this project, the researchers adopted a more global approach. They used GC-MS to analyze hundreds of biomolecules in various mouse brain regions (e.g. cortex, cerebellum, brainstem), and built up metabolic profiles of these areas using bioinformatics.

Different regions were found to be characterized by distinct metabolic signatures. By comparing the profiles of healthy mice and those with excitotoxic injury, the team were able to uncover specific signatures associated with neurodegeneration. Their findings appear to give a clearer picture than the study of any individual metabolite, and suggest that these signatures could serve as biomarkers for neurodegeneration.

Manuel Buttini (University of Luxembourg), lead author of the study, commented on the promising results: “They open up new opportunities to better understand neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s, and could offer new ways to intervene therapeutically.”

He continued, “By analyzing metabolite profiles rather than just microscopic cellular changes or individual biomolecules, a better understanding of the effect of novel therapeutics for brain diseases should be feasible.“

Sources: Jaeger C, Glaab E, Michelucci A et al. The mouse brain metabolome: region-specific signatures and response to excitotoxic neuronal injury. Am. J. Pathol. 185(6), 1699-1712 (2015); What hundreds of biomolecules tell us about our nerve cells.

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