Lowly cytokine may play role in controlling neurotransmitters

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Researchers here in collaboration with a group in California have discovered that a protein normally thought only to be a component in the immune system actually plays a key role in regulating neurotransmission in the central nervous system -- the CNS -- as well.

The protein, tumor necrosis factor alpha, or TNF-alpha, has long been known to be a key player in controlling cell death but this new finding offers new insights into how cells interact within the human nervous system.

Understanding this new role of TNF-alpha may provide researchers with possible new approaches to treating illnesses such as dementia, Alzheimer's disease, stroke, epilepsy and spinal cord injury. The report was published in the latest issue of the journal Science.

The findings by Jacqueline Bresnahan, professor of neurosciences at Ohio State University; Michael Beattie, professor and chair of the same department, and colleagues at Stanford University, show that TNF-alpha is vital for controlling the strength of signal transmission between nerve cells. And the level of signal strength may play an important role in determining how nerve cells respond to injury.

Researchers have long believed that neurons were

Contact: Michael Beattie
Ohio State University

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