Research led by Nicolas Bazan, M.D., Ph.D., Boyd Professor, Ernest C. and Yvette C. Villere Chair of Retinal Degeneration Research, and Director of the Neuroscience Center of Excellence at Louisiana State University (LSU) Health New Orleans, has discovered gene interactions that determine whether cells live or die in such conditions as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and ischemic stroke. When and if triggered, these gene interactions in vision and brain integrity can prevent blindness and also promote recovery from a stroke. The open-access article reporting these findings was published online on January 30, 2015 in Cell Death & Differentiation. "Studying the eye and the brain might hold the key to creating therapeutic solutions for blindness, stroke, and other seemingly unrelated conditions associated with the central nervous system," notes Dr. Bazan. "The eye is a window to the brain." Dr. Bazan and his research team discovered neuroprotectin D1 (NPD1), which is made from the essential fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Previous work had shown that, while NPD1 protected cells, the molecular principles underlying this protection were not known. "During the last few years, my laboratory has been immersed in studying gene regulation," Dr. Bazan says. "We have uncovered a novel control that makes definitive decisions about whether a retina or brain cell will survive or die when threatened with disease onset. The gene mechanism that we discovered is the interplay of two genes turned on by the messenger neuroprotectin D1."
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