Researchers have discovered more than 11,000 circular RNAs (circRNAs) in brain cells that are associated with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. These circRNAs have the potential to provide insights into the molecular basis of these diseases and can be utilized as biomarkers and in RNA-based treatments.
The study conducted by investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital studied circRNAs in brain cells to gain a better understanding of neurological diseases. They identified over 11,000 distinct RNA circles that are characteristic of brain cells affected by Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. The findings of their research were published in the journal Nature Communications.
According to Clemens Scherzer, MD, corresponding author of the study, circRNAs have long been considered as non-functional. However, this study reveals that circRNAs play a significant role in programming human brain cells and synapses. The researchers found that circRNAs were produced in large quantities by brain cells associated with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
The team of researchers analyzed 190 postmortem brain samples using deep sequencing to study the genetic code of circRNAs in different cell types. They discovered that 61% of the synaptic circRNAs characterized were related to brain disorders. Furthermore, they identified specific circRNAs in dopamine and pyramidal neurons, which are crucial for movement, mood, motivation, memory, and language.
Interestingly, the circular RNAs, rather than linear RNAs, were found to define neuron identity. This suggests that circRNAs provide specific information about cell types that cannot be explained by linear RNAs from the same gene.
The study also revealed that genes associated with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s produced circular RNAs, and the expression of these circRNAs was altered even before symptom onset. These naturally occurring circRNAs have the potential to serve as biomarkers for detecting early stages of diseases and as tools for delivering therapies.
While the current study provides comprehensive insights into circRNAs in human brain cells, there is still much to learn about their function and regulation. Future research can explore how circRNAs arise and function and investigate additional genetic regulators that govern their behavior.
In conclusion, the discovery of circRNAs in brain cells changes our understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying neurodegenerative disorders. CircRNAs have the potential to be used as RNA therapies and biomarkers for diagnosing and treating neurological conditions.
– Nature Communications Journal