Memory problems in Down syndrome have been linked to the “dark matter” of the genome

Research continuesResearchers have discovered a new piece of the puzzle that explains memory and learning problems in Down syndrome. The culprit? The little-understood Snhg11 gene, located in the mysterious “dark matter” of the human genome. Discuss© 3

Traditionally, genes are classified based on their ability to make proteins. However, this study, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, sheds light on the significance of non-coding genes such as Snhg11. These genes do not encode proteins, but play a critical role in regulating gene activity, influencing development and potentially contributing to disease.

The research team from the Center for Genomic Regulation (CRG) focused on the hippocampus, an area of ​​the brain that plays a critical role in the development of memory and learning. Experiments in mice and human tissue have shown that Snhg11 is less active in the brains of people with Down syndrome.

“Snhg11 is particularly active in… a part of the hippocampus that is critical for learning and memory formation,” explains Dr. Cesar Sierra , lead author of the study. “We found that reducing the expression of Snhg11 leads to a decrease in the number of new neurons and changes in plasticity, which are necessary for learning and memory.”

Further experiments confirmed the effect of Snhg11 on brain function. Mice with reduced Snhg11 activity showed impairments in synaptic plasticity—the ability of neurons to strengthen connections over time, a process vital for learning and memory. These mice also had difficulty forming new neurons.

Researchers plan to delve deeper into the precise mechanisms by which Snhg11 affects brain function.

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