SEPTEMBER 2019 BLOG
Expanding our treatment to neurological disorders from our specialty of Stroke/TBI has necessitated
expanding our own knowledge. At NVC we welcome learning more about different disorders,
treatments, symptoms, and risk factors to become aware of just what is the state of the art. In so doing
we are learning just how much is unknown about the brain and the diseases and disorders that have the
brain and nervous systems at the core of either causation or affect. These disorders can vary from
cognitive problems to physical disorders of paralysis or lack of control or just general loss of strength.
Add to this the functions of aging or an incident like stroke or TBI and the overall lack of understanding
seems to increase. This underscores the need to for research dollars along with education dollars to
support those able to work in in labs and facilities to increase our knowledge and develop effective
treatment for these wide spread problems that are becoming more prevalent as people live longer.
We find new and enlightening information daily. A recent study out of Australia analyzed the activity of
the 20,000-odd genes in the bodies of hundreds of men and women. The study showed that more than
one third of genes were expressed much more in one sex that the other. This sex bias was not limited to
sex organs, but was obvious at many other sites, including the brain. Male and female brains really are
different at every level: molecular, cellular and behavioral.
Many diseases are more common in one sex that the other. For example: MS and other auto immune
diseases are more common in women than men while Parkinson’s and several mental health conditions
such as schizophrenia and autism are more common in men. For over 60 years we have attributed these
differences to hormones. For instance, the sex difference in Parkinson’s disease was previously
attributed solely to the protective effect of the hormone estrogen in female brains. This new just
published study gives us reason to believe that genes on sex chromosomes may have direct affect.
Men are twice as likely to develop Parkinson’s as women. It is caused by a loss of neurons responsible for
making dopamine, a hormone and neurotransmitter that sends messages to other nerve cells.
Symptoms appear when 70% of these dopamine-synthesizing cells have been depleted. We don’t
understand how these neurons are lost, but expect the effect of loss of motor function is due to the
curtailed dopamine production. Previous work has shown that over activity of the SRY gene destroys
neurons that synthesize dopamine. SRY is the master gene on the Y chromosome that determines the
male sex of a baby in the embryo and appears to control the creation of dopamine neurons. This might
partially explain why PD affects males more commonly than females. The newest study shows that
interfering with SRY expression in the brains of rodents with Parkinson’s disease ameliorates the severity
of symptoms (Hudson Institute in Melbourne). While work done with mice and other rodents does not
always transfer to people, it is the starting point for breakthrough research.
Research findings like this may lead to better treatment in the future as more studies expand and
confirm or deny the findings. It takes many years and much investment before initial findings result in
treatments. Investment in both education and science are critical for future understanding and
treatment of these debilitating diseases of the brain and nervous system. These are investments in all of