Two years ago, the Zika virus drew attention to microcephaly, a developmental disorder in which the brain and skull display inhibited growth. But there are other causes of microcephaly, such as congenital genetic diseases. Much is still unknown about brain development, but researchers at Utrecht University, in collaboration with their colleagues in Switzerland, have now new shed light on the molecules involved. The results of their research are published in Nature Cell Biology of 24 April.
“Biological processes are determined by molecules in our cells. We can only understand the factors that determine health and disease and find medicines to control these factors by zooming into this molecular world”, explains research leader Prof. Anna Akhmanova.
The researchers began their studies by focusing on the protein ASPM. “We knew that the genetic form of microcephaly is most often caused by defects in this protein. But a surprising discovery was that ASPM appears to work closely together with another protein, called katanin”, tells Akhmanova.