Currents

    Sex Gene May Explain Parkinson’s

    A sex gene that makes embryos male and is responsible for the formation of testes has been linked to the brain region targeted by Parkinson’s disease, which may explain why men develop the disorder much more often than women, according to the results of a new study by researchers at UCLA.

    In an unexpected discovery, UCLA human genetics professor Eric Vilain and his team traced a protein, which is manufactured by a gene on the male sex chromosome, to a region of the brain called the substantia nigra, which deteriorates in those with Parkinson’s disease when cells in the region irreversibly malfunction and die.

    Vilain’s team used a rat model to study the effect of the protein on the brain. When the researchers lowered the level of the protein in the substantia nigra, they saw a corresponding drop in an enzyme called tyrosine hydroxylase. The researchers noticed the drop in tyrosine hydroxylase occurred in male rats, while female rats remained unaffected.

    The results of the study suggest that variations in the protein levels may be linked to the onset of Parkinson’s, a chronic movement disorder affecting nearly 1 million Americans, and could offer insights into why men are more at risk.

    UCSC Plays Tag With Sea Creatures

    Albatrosses, seals, sea lions, tuna fish and sharks have been outfitted with electronic tags in a new study by researchers at UC Santa Cruz that has yielded new information about the migrations and behavior of the animals and about the environments in which they live.

    UCSC ecology and evolutionary biology professor Daniel Costa and his team deployed electronic tags on 23 different apex predator species in the North Pacific Ocean that capture an animal’s location, swim speed, and the depth and duration of the animal’s dives. In addition, the tags record the temperature and salinity of the seawater and how those properties change with ocean depth.

    As the animals travel along the coast, the electronic tags, which are fastened harmlessly to their bodies, transmit data back to the scientists via satellite.

    Costa is also collaborating with Scottish researchers on a project in the waters around Antarctica to implement the same tracking system for southern elephant seals, fur seals and crabeater seals.

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