EDINBURGH, Scotland, Oct. 31 (UPI) — The genetic makeup of human brain cells is not static but changes thousands of times during the course of our lifetimes, researchers in Scotland said.
Scientists at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, working in collaboration with scientists from the Netherlands, Italy, Australia, Japan and the United States, have identified genes called retrotransposons responsible for tiny changes in the DNA of brain tissue, the BBC reported Sunday.
The researchers said the study shows for the first time that brain cells are genetically different from other cells in the body and are also genetically distinct from each other.
Mapping the locations of the genes could lead to the identification of mutations that may affect brain function and cause diseases such as Parkinson’s, the researchers said.
“If we can understand better how these subtle genetic changes occur we could shed light on how brain cells regenerate, how processes like memory formation may have a genetic basis and possibly link the activity of these genes to brain diseases,” Geoff Faulkner of the Roslin Institute said. “This research completely overturns the belief that the genetic make-up of brain cells remains static throughout life and provides us with new information about how the brain works.”