Neurogenesis or growth and development of neurons in the adult vertebrate and human brain were observed for the first time 25 years ago. Dysregulation of adult neurogenesis has a strong influence in the progression of disease. Neurogenesis in adult brain, if improved and maintained, has huge capability as a therapeutic target for dealing with disease- as well as age- related neuron loss. Dr. Anthony Windebank and his team at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota have been actively researching on a novel and potentially significant therapeutic agent in the fight against neural degeneration.
Mechano Growth Factor – more than an exercise supplement?
Mechano Growth Factor (MGF) happens to be a splice variant of Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1). IGF-1 is a protein synthesized essentially in the liver, and plays a significant function in promoting growth and development of cells across diverse kinds of tissue. As a close family member, MGF gets expressed essentially in skeletal and heart muscle. It is known for its ability to stimulate the proliferation of muscle stem cells (satellite cells) to hasten damage, repair and promote muscle growth.
This category of growth factors is maximally expressed around childhood and adolescence and shows a steady reduction with progression into adulthood and old age. As a result, people often face increased susceptibility to diverse physical and neurological conditions, as our bodies gradually lose the ability to repair themselves.
It has been known for long that muscle tissue is the exclusive site for MGF production. MGF happens to be most commonly used as an exercise supplement in the market today. Athletes and bodybuilders prefer protein to enhance muscle mass. However, in a recent article published in Molecular Brain, Dr. Windebank et al have shown for the first time that MGF helps to address neuronal attrition as well as brain dysfunction in aging mice.
Mechano Growth Factor in the brains of mice
The above-mentioned research work involves using a murine model for MGF overexpression. Breeding of transgenic mice helped to constitutively overexpress MGF in the hippocampus and the subventricular region of the brain – The parts which are associated with neural development and differentiation (neurogenesis). Histological study confirmed an extremely high concentration of BrdU, a synthetic marker for detecting proliferating cells in live tissues in these portions of the mice brain tissues. This represents high levels of cell proliferation and growth in the specific domains of the brain.
A different batch of double transgenic mice was then bred such that the animals produce MGF on certain conditions when activated by the presence of a triggering agent added to their drinking water. Researchers depended on this new population of mice to study the long-term influence of increased neural MGF production when produced at 1, 3 or 12 months old. Behavioral studies and further histological assays were then conducted at 24 months.
Mice showing high Mechano Growth Factor production not only showed signs of neurogenesis but also greater resistance to age-associated neural degeneration, as observed by their improved olfactory responses. They also displayed greater speed and higher success in cognitive tests.
The efficiency of MGF was observed to be age-dependent as found in the study. Early induction of MGF production resulted in more dramatic proliferation of BrdU+ cells, and further neurological improvement throughout adult life. If MGF production was not stimulated before 12 months of the age of mice, there were no significant histological or behavioral differences to the control group.
As per current research, the cellular site of action or the mechanisms of MGF are unknown, and further studies is needed to deep dive into the cellular and behavioral effects of Mechano Growth Factor on neurogenesis. The study indicates towards the possibility of using Mechano Growth Factor for therapeutic applications far beyond its existing function as a steroid that triggers the development of muscles.
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