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UBC to Study Cerebellum Genetics

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Researchers at the University of British Columbia will lead research aimed at discovering and mapping the genes involved in development in the cerebellum in order to understand conditions such as autism spectrum disorder, schizophrenia, and fragile X mental retardation.

Funded with C$330,000 (US$337,000) from Genome British Columbia, researchers at the UBC department of Medical Genetics and the Centre of Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics will partner with the Riken Institute in the studies, which they hope eventually could lead to discovery of the genes involved in abnormal development that can cause these diseases.

The collaboration with Riken, which will focus on identifying gene regulatory networks, will enable the researchers to study gene expression and interactions in the cerebellum "at a level of resolution never before attained," Genome BC said.

Identifying these key genes involved in the early development of the cerebellum and the rest of the brain also could enable researchers to search for ways to restart plasticity in the brain, which could make healing more possible and lead to new drugs and cognitive treatments for people with abnormal brain development.

"All of our incoming sensory information is received by the cerebellum where it can be compared and contrasted," UBC researcher Daniel Goldowitz said in a statement. "So you can imagine if there is a mismatch between information coming in and going out – that there would be a serious problem.

"Our long term goal would be to develop tools for early diagnosis of, and possible therapies for brain disorders such as autism," he added.

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