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Nerve-protecting gene discovered​
View : 8903 Date : 2005-02-02 Writer : ed_news

Korean scientists for the first time have identified a gene that blocks nerve damage from fevers and the use of narcotics, a state-run research institute said yesterday. 

The finding may open the way for new medicine that can prevent the loss of brain function which is frequently caused by excessive stimulation of nerves and abnormally high body temperature. 

"The research is in an early stage. But this approach has the potential to develop genetics-based preventatives against brain-attacking diseases," said Kim Jae-seob, a bioscience professor of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, who led the study. 

The researchers named the gene Pyrexia, which means fever. Kim"s team extracted it from genetically engineered fruit flies using a genome-screening system. In laboratory tests, they found that the gene is activated to 39 degrees Celsius or higher. 

The researchers enhanced Pyrexia"s functionality in some fruit flies while removing the gene from others to observe their different reactions when exposed to high temperature. 

"The fruit flies without the gene showed severe nerve disorder and suffered paralysis of brain function, while Pyrexia-enhanced flies maintained their normal brain conditions," the professor said. 

The researchers got the same result from experiments with human cells, he said. 

There are a lot of channel proteins, which enable ions to enter and exit the cell, that react to the level of temperature, but Pyrexia is the first of its kind that actually protects the neurons from external stimulus, he said. 

The finding will appear on the March edition of the London-based science magazine Nature Genetics. 

THE KOREA HERALD 2005.1.31
(thkim@heraldm.com) By Kim Tong-hyung