Medical College of Wisconsin
Press Release

MCW professor publishes Nature article on cause of neurological disorders

The study published in the March 2016 issue of Nature Communications, was authored by Nashaat Gerges, PhD.

By - Apr 7th, 2016 08:44 am
Nashaat Gerges. Photo courtesy of the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Nashaat Gerges. Photo courtesy of the Medical College of Wisconsin.

In a study reported in Nature Communications, MCW scientists along with researchers from the University of Connecticut, analyzed the underlying causes involved in neurological disorders. According to the published study, abnormalities in BRAG1, a protein important for influencing the proper communication between neurons, were found to cause neurological dysfunction. Through their research, the investigators discovered how certain protein mutations could increase the likelihood of a neurological disorder. In the future, this information will be used to develop treatment options.
The study published in the March 2016 issue of Nature Communications, was authored by Nashaat Gerges, PhD, associate professor of cell biology, neurobiology and anatomy at MCW; Joshua Brown and Amber Peterson, graduate students in MCW’s department of cell biology, neurobiology and anatomy; and Ling Zhong, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in MCW’s department of cell biology, neurobiology and anatomy.

According to a study published by the United Nations, up to one billion people suffer from a neurological disorder, equating to nearly one in six of the world’s population. Furthermore, that same study found 6.8 million people die of neurological maladies each year. Neurological disorders include, but are not limited to, Alzheimer and Parkinson disease, strokes, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, brain injuries, neuroinfections, and most relevant to the study, intellectual disability.

To understand the underlying causes of the neurological disorders and intellectual disability, the researchers of the study focused on the role of the specific protein, BRAG1, found in the cells that form the core components of the brain and spinal cord in the central nervous system, also known as neurons. The researchers were able to determine the effect of BRAG1 mutations on neuronal function. The study found distinct mutations of the protein to increase the chances of attaining a neurological disorder. The researchers hope to use these findings to develop treatments to address the mutations which cause the dysfunction.

Additional co-authors of the paper include Miranda Himelright, MS, Jessica Murphy, PhD and Randall Walikonis, PhD, all from the University of Connecticut’s department of physiology and neurobiology.

About the Medical College of Wisconsin
The Medical College of Wisconsin is the state’s only private medical school and health sciences graduate school. Founded in 1893, it is dedicated to leadership and excellence in education, patient care, research and community engagement. More than 1,200 students are enrolled in MCW’s medical school and graduate school programs in Milwaukee, and 26 medical students are enrolled at MCW-Green Bay. A regional medical education campus is scheduled to open in Central Wisconsin in 2016. MCW’s School of Pharmacy will open in 2017 or 2018 with an initial class size of 60 students. A major national research center, MCW is the largest research institution in the Milwaukee metro area and second largest in Wisconsin. In FY 2014-15, faculty received approximately $158 million in external support for research, teaching, training and related purposes, of which approximately $139 million is for research. This total includes highly competitive research and training awards from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Annually, MCW faculty direct or collaborate on more than 3,200 research studies, including clinical trials. Additionally, more than 1,500 physicians provide care in virtually every specialty of medicine for more than 525,000 patients annually.

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