MILAN – A few days ago a group of American scientists from the McGill University Health Centre and from Duke University made a very interesting discovery. Apparently, the brain plays a key role in our health, acting as a gage and providing input for various body processes. The experts have identified the structure of a key protein within the human brain which deals with the hydration of the body and also controls its temperature. The results, published in the Cell Reports, could have significant clinical implications, since this protein represents a target for the development of treatments and diagnostic tests for numerous health problems connected with imbalances of body fluids.
The protein seen by Dr. Bourque
"We have found what we believe to be the first protein that could allow the brain to monitor physiological temperature - said Dr. Charles Bourque, Researcher from McGill University - and this is important because the protein helps us to understand how the brain detects heat and triggers sensations of thirst. This protein regulates a flow of ions across the cell membrane which play a crucial role in balancing the body's fluids. High levels of sodium can lead to fluid retention and subsequently to heart failure and brain trauma. The protein can help to prevent these kinds of problems". Dr. Bourque's team is studying how the brain controls osmoregulation of the body, which is the active regulation of the osmotic pressure in the internal fluids of a living organism to prevent them from becoming too diluted or too concentrated.
Collaboration with Duke University
The discovery is the result of a previous work carried out by Dr. Bourque's team in their laboratory at the Montreal General Hospital. A few years ago some studies showed that a gene called TRPV1 played a key role in the detection of fluid balance in the body. Recently, the same researchers have discovered that the same gene is involved in the detection of body temperature. However, the type of protein produced by the gene TRPV1 was still unknown. This work was carried out in collaboration with Duke University: "The collaboration with Dr. Bourque's group has led to the identification of a long ion channel which is activated during times of dehydration - explained Dr. Wolfgang Liedtke, a professor at Duke University - by activating neurons in the part of the brain called the hypothalamus, which indicates to the body when it should act in order to maintain fluid balance."
by editorial staff