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

our futures.