Brain-eating plants like these may have been around for millennia, but scientists are starting to understand how they work.
Read more “The first thing we did was we looked at the genome, and we found that the brain is composed of a lot of DNA that has not been processed,” said Daniel Jaffe, a graduate student at Harvard Medical School in Boston.
“We didn’t know if there were any other organisms that had this property.”
The new research, which appears in the journal Nature Communications, suggests that brain cells are not only made up of the genetic material from neurons, but also DNA from other organisms, like bacteria and yeast.
This means that a variety of organisms have the potential to produce brain cells.
“These plants have very complex biology,” Jaffe told Reuters Health.
“You have the neurons, and then you have the microorganisms that have a symbiotic relationship with the neurons.”
The researchers found that a specific gene in the brain cells of some organisms that can produce neurotoxins is a member of the mitochondrial-complexity gene, which is also found in certain bacteria.
This gene is not normally found in the human genome, which means it may not be able to get expressed in the brains of some species.
However, it was able to produce a neurotoxin in the absence of a known neurotoxin, the researchers report.
This gene has been shown to play a key role in brain function, so Jaffe said the findings could be of use in research on how to treat or treat brain disorders.
“If you can find these proteins in a non-toxic environment, it could be a really interesting avenue to explore in the future,” he said.
The researchers suggest that plants that contain the mitochondria, a type of organelles that make up the cell, may be more resilient to the neurotoxin produced by the mitochondrion-complex.
However they said the plants also have the advantage of having higher levels of a certain protein in their cells, called beta-amyloid precursor protein (BAP), which is involved in Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
“We found that there was this protein that produced neurotoxin but that it was very low in the mitochondrials,” Jaffas said.
“If you put that in the soil and then put it into a plant, it’s not toxic.
If you put it in a plant that’s eaten by worms, it kills them.
That protein is present in a whole bunch of different plants.”
A better understanding of how these plants work could lead to better treatments for conditions like Alzheimer’s and other brain disorders, he added.
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