Breaking News
May 3, 2019 - Vaping and Smoking May Signal Greater Motivation to Quit
May 3, 2019 - Dementia looks different in brains of Hispanics
May 3, 2019 - Short-Staffed Nursing Homes See Drop In Medicare Ratings
May 3, 2019 - Study of teens with eating disorders explores how substance users differ from non-substance users
May 3, 2019 - Scientists develop new video game that may help in the study of Alzheimer’s
May 3, 2019 - Arc Bio introduces Galileo Pathogen Solution product line at ASM Clinical Virology Symposium
May 3, 2019 - Cornell University study uncovers relationship between starch digestion gene and gut bacteria
May 3, 2019 - How to Safely Use Glucose Meters and Test Strips for Diabetes
May 3, 2019 - Anti-inflammatory drugs ineffective for prevention of Alzheimer’s disease
May 3, 2019 - Study tracks Pennsylvania’s oil and gas waste-disposal practices
May 3, 2019 - Creating a better radiation diagnostic test for astronauts
May 3, 2019 - Vegans are often deficient in these four nutrients
May 3, 2019 - PPDC announces seed grants to develop medical devices for children
May 3, 2019 - Study maps out the frequency and impact of water polo head injuries
May 3, 2019 - Research on Reddit identifies risks associated with unproven treatments for opioid addiction
May 3, 2019 - Good smells may help ease tobacco cravings
May 3, 2019 - Medical financial hardship found to be very common among people in the United States
May 3, 2019 - Researchers develop multimodal system for personalized post-stroke rehabilitation
May 3, 2019 - Study shows significant mortality benefit with CABG over percutaneous coronary intervention
May 3, 2019 - Will gene-editing of human embryos ever be justifiable?
May 3, 2019 - FDA Approves Dengvaxia (dengue vaccine) for the Prevention of Dengue Disease in Endemic Regions
May 3, 2019 - Why Tonsillitis Keeps Coming Back
May 3, 2019 - Fighting the opioid epidemic with data
May 3, 2019 - Maggot sausages may soon be a reality
May 3, 2019 - Deletion of ATDC gene prevents development of pancreatic cancer in mice
May 2, 2019 - Targeted Therapy Promising for Rare Hematologic Cancer
May 2, 2019 - Alzheimer’s disease is a ‘double-prion disorder,’ study shows
May 2, 2019 - Reservoir bugs: How one bacterial menace makes its home in the human stomach
May 2, 2019 - Clinical, Admin Staff From Cardiology Get Sneak Peek at Epic
May 2, 2019 - Depression increases hospital use and mortality in children
May 2, 2019 - Vicon and NOC support CURE International to create first gait lab in Ethiopia
May 2, 2019 - Researchers use 3D printer to make paper organs
May 2, 2019 - Viral infection in utero associated with behavioral abnormalities in offspring
May 2, 2019 - U.S. Teen Opioid Deaths Soaring
May 2, 2019 - Opioid distribution data should be public
May 2, 2019 - In the Spotlight: “I’m learning every single day”
May 2, 2019 - 2019 Schaefer Scholars Announced
May 2, 2019 - Podcast: KHN’s ‘What The Health?’ Bye-Bye, ACA, And Hello ‘Medicare-For-All’?
May 2, 2019 - Study describes new viral molecular evasion mechanism used by cytomegalovirus
May 2, 2019 - SLU study suggests a more equitable way for Medicare reimbursement
May 2, 2019 - Scientists discover first gene involved in lower urinary tract obstruction
May 2, 2019 - Researchers identify 34 genes associated with increased risk of ovarian cancer
May 2, 2019 - Many low-income infants receive formula in the first few days of life, finds study
May 2, 2019 - Global study finds high success rate for hip and knee replacements
May 2, 2019 - Taking depression seriously: What is it?
May 2, 2019 - With Head Injuries Mounting, Will Cities Put Their Feet Down On E-Scooters?
May 2, 2019 - Scientists develop small fluorophores for tracking metabolites in living cells
May 2, 2019 - Study casts new light into how mothers’ and babies’ genes influence birth weight
May 2, 2019 - Researchers uncover new brain mechanisms regulating body weight
May 2, 2019 - Organ-on-chip systems offered to Asia-Pacific regions by Sydney’s AXT
May 2, 2019 - Adoption of new rules drops readmission penalties against safety net hospitals
May 2, 2019 - Kids and teens who consume zero-calorie sweetened beverages do not save calories
May 2, 2019 - Improved procedure for cancer-related erectile dysfunction
May 2, 2019 - Hormone may improve social behavior in autism
May 2, 2019 - Alzheimer’s disease may be caused by infectious proteins called prions
May 2, 2019 - Even Doctors Can’t Navigate Our ‘Broken Health Care System’
May 2, 2019 - Study looks at the impact on criminal persistence of head injuries
May 2, 2019 - Honey ‘as high in sugars as table sugar’
May 2, 2019 - Innovations to U.S. food system could help consumers in choosing healthy foods
May 2, 2019 - FDA Approves Mavyret (glecaprevir and pibrentasvir) as First Treatment for All Genotypes of Hepatitis C in Pediatric Patients
May 2, 2019 - Women underreport prevalence and intensity of their own snoring
May 2, 2019 - Concussion summit focuses on science behind brain injury
May 2, 2019 - Booker’s Argument For Environmental Justice Stays Within The Lines
May 2, 2019 - Cornell research explains increased metastatic cancer risk in diabetics
May 2, 2019 - Mount Sinai study provides fresh insights into cellular pathways that cause cancer
May 2, 2019 - Researchers to study link between prenatal pesticide exposures and childhood ADHD
May 2, 2019 - CoGEN Congress 2019: Speakers’ overviews
May 2, 2019 - A new strategy for managing diabetic macular edema in people with good vision
May 2, 2019 - Sagent Pharmaceuticals Issues Voluntary Nationwide Recall of Ketorolac Tromethamine Injection, USP, 60mg/2mL (30mg per mL) Due to Lack of Sterility Assurance
May 2, 2019 - Screen time associated with behavioral problems in preschoolers
May 2, 2019 - Hormone reduces social impairment in kids with autism | News Center
May 2, 2019 - Researchers synthesize peroxidase-mimicking nanozyme with low cost and superior catalytic activity
May 2, 2019 - Study results of a potential drug to treat Type 2 diabetes in children announced
May 2, 2019 - Multigene test helps doctors to make effective treatment decisions for breast cancer patients
May 2, 2019 - UNC School of Medicine initiative providing unique care to dementia patients
May 2, 2019 - Nestlé Health Science and VHP join forces to launch innovative COPES program for cancer patients
May 2, 2019 - Study examines how our brain generates consciousness and loses it during anesthesia
May 2, 2019 - Transition Support Program May Aid Young Adults With Type 1 Diabetes
May 2, 2019 - Study shows how neutrophils exacerbate atherosclerosis by inducing smooth muscle-cell death
May 2, 2019 - Research reveals complexity of how we make decisions
Is zinc the link to how we think? Some evidence, and a word of warning

Is zinc the link to how we think? Some evidence, and a word of warning

In biology, structure equals function. The protein machines that do virtually all of the myriad biochemical jobs within every living cell sometimes require the presence of a molecule or two of an elemental substance — copper, iron, manganese, chromium, or what have you — so they can assume just the right shape and wheel into action.

You can read any multivitamin label to view the panoply of nutritionally required trace elements. One of them is zinc, whose role in nervous system function is being busily hammered out by brain scientists — and not without a note of urgency. Several epidemiological studies in recent years have found that low zinc levels, as measured in hair samples, among children with autism spectrum disorder. The association is far from air-tight — plenty of kids with ASD have normal zinc levels — but it hints at a link between zinc and the way we think.

Studies at the molecular level have suggested that zinc plays an important role in the forging of synapses, the customized, complicated contact junctions via which nerves relay impulses to one another. But while these studies have identified scattered pieces of a complex puzzle, they haven’t assembled those pieces into a plausible picture of where and how, exactly, zinc fits into the picture. Now, a study in Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience puts the pieces together, presenting a working model that could point to a better understanding of autism’s underpinnings.

The new study, led by Stanford neuroscientists John Huguenard, PhD, and Sally Kim, PhD, and then-graduate student Huong Ha, PhD, showed that zinc is required for the proper behavior of two related proteins, Shank 2 and Shank 3, that hang out at most synapses in the brain. Among their duties, Shank 2 and Shank 3 can reshuffle the subunits of a receptor that dots the receiving end of most nerve cells. This receptor gets tripped off by an incoming chemical signal called glutamate.

In the developing brain, glutamate receptors undergo a process of maturation in the form of internal alterations that are catalyzed by Shank 2 and Shank 3. The substitution of one type of subunit for another type in these receptors endow the receptor with more-prolonged signaling strength, a better “memory” of how often it’s been previously tripped off by the arrival of a glutamate molecule, and a correspondingly more-pronounced propensity to respond heartily to such chemical messages in the futaure. (This collection of characteristics, which neuroscientists call “plasticity,” is the molecular essence of memory and learning.)

Kim, Huguenard, Ha and their colleagues showed that zinc is absolutely necessary to this development-associated maturation of glutamate receptors by Shank 2 and Shank 3. When triggered by glutamate, a receiving nerve cell opens itself to a temporary but substantial influx of zinc, molecules of which bind to Shank 2 and Shank 3. This, in turn, spurs those two proteins’ active reshuffling of the cell’s glutamate-receptor molecules — an essential and permanent step in the brain circuitry’s development.

Glutamate-receptor maturation is particularly critical in late fetal and early-childhood brain development, when synapses are being formed at an amazing rate. And zinc deficiency is especially pronounced in the very youngest patients diagnosed with ASD. So it’s only natural to ask whether zinc supplementation can stave off the syndrome.

But that’s by no means been demonstrated, in this study or anywhere else. Moreover, excess zinc intake can be outright dangerous. So tread lightly here. But we’re a step closer to understanding the early wiring up and firing up of the brain’s circuitry — and what can go wrong with it.

Photo by psyberartist

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles