In another paper published in Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism, part of the Nature Group, the researchers provided the first evidence that neurons constantly store glycogen but in a different way: accumulating small amounts and using it as quickly as it becomes available. In this regard, the scientists set up new, more sensitive, analytical techniques to confirm that the machinery responsible for glycogen synthesis and degradation existed. In summary, they showed that, in small amounts, glycogen is beneficial for neurons.
"For example, while the liver accumulates glycogen in large amounts and releases it slowly to maintain blood sugar levels, above all when we sleep, neurons synthesize and degrade small amounts of this polysaccharide continuously. They do not use it as an energy store but as a rapid and small, but constant, source of energy," explains Guinovart, also senior professor at the University of Barcelona (UB).
To observe the action of glycogen, the scientists forced cultured mouse neurons to survive under oxygen depletion. They demonstrated that the first cells to die were those in which the capacity to synthesise glycogen had been removed. The same experiments were performed in collaboration with Marco Miln's "Development and growth control" group in the in vivo model of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. These tests led to the same conclusions.
The researchers postulated that glycogen is a lifeguard under oxygen depletion, a condition that leads the brains to shut down and that often occurs at birth and in cerebral infarctions in adults, which leads to severe consequences, such a cerebral paralysis.
"It is the first function of glycogen that we have discovered in neurons, but we still have to identify its function in normal
|Contact: Sònia Armengou|
Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona)