RESEARCHERS at the Neurosciences Institute at the University Miguel Hernández (UMH) in Elche and the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) have discovered that the brain can sense if there is a bodily injury or abnormal growth and respond to restore it to normal.
The findings could be used to create new drugs to treat growth problems in children or to stimulate tissue regeneration. The research has identified a neuronal receptor and a set of neurons that are responsible for detecting and evaluating physical growth and each organ that is responsible for implementing the necessary adjustments to offset defects. As such, the proportion and the normal course of growth can be recovered.
Researcher at the Institute of Neurosciences, Maria Dominguez, said that “to date, it was thought that the size and appearance of growth defects were a reflection of genetic inheritance. Our work shows that mechanisms can compensate for errors and deviations in growth during the developmental stage, because even a genetically ‘perfect’ body can be disrupted by environmental stress, accidents or genetic disease.”
The hormone that reports the presence of damage or abnormal growth, known as ‘Dilp8,’ was discovered three years ago by the same team at the Institute of Neurosciences: “This study has identified the receptor Lgr3 belonging to the family of G protein-coupled receptors, one of the most important families of proteins in the drug field.
“Many hormones, neurotransmitters and most stimuli such as light, smells and flavours have these receptors,” said Dominguez. UMH researcher and Co-Director of Research, Javier Morante, concluded that “until now, there was no apparent explanation for the ability of children to recover from an injury, illness or surgery.
“Our research, which was conducted on the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, has shown that the flies with a deficiency in receptor neurons Lgr3 could not correct and compensate for variations and discrepancies in growth. Therefore, we concluded that the mysterious plasticity to compensate for irregular development is controlled by the brain.”