(May 14, 2010)--Researchers at the UTSA Neurosciences Institute are one step closer to understanding the physiology of dopaminergic neurons, the neurons in the brain that generally produce dopamine but die during Parkinson's disease.
Because dopaminergic neurons are the neurons that die during Parkinson's disease, and they also are the neurons affected when a drug user takes psycho-stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamine, the research has profound implications for public health.
Typically, dopaminergic neurons fire fast bursts of electrical activity. Scientists widely agree a protein called the NMDA receptor in the neuron's outer membrane has something to do with the ability to fire such fast bursts.
UTSA Assistant Professor Carlos Paladini and Professor Charles Wilson in the Department of Biology set out to learn how NMDA receptors cause bursts of firing in the brain's dopaminergic neurons. In a series of studies, the researchers observed that the NMDA receptor is highly sensitive to voltages. When the outer membrane's voltage is more positive, the NMDA receptor channel opens and leads to a single spike of electrical activity. When the outer membrane's voltage is more negative, the NMDA receptor channel closes and allows the neuron to recover from the previous spike of electrical activity.
Because the dopaminergic neuron's voltages quickly alternate between positive and negative, the result is NMDA receptors also quickly alternate between open and closed states. Voltage cues cause the NMDA receptors to oscillate rapidly several times between a spike of electrical activity one moment and silence the next, allowing dopaminergic neurons to fire a rapid burst of spikes: one spike with each NMDA receptor oscillation.
"For some reason, dopaminergic neurons are vulnerable in Parkinson's disease," said Paladini. "This study helps us better understand the physiology underlying their vulnerability."
UTSA researchers are exploring matter at the atomic level with Helenita. It's one of the most powerful microscopes in the world, with the ability to operate near the theoretical limit of resolution. At 9 feet, 2 inches tall and weighing more than two tons, Helenita can dissect almost anything. With Helenita's resolution, researchers can study particles atom by atom to see how they behave.
That's critical in developing nanotechnology that will help diagnosis early-stage breast cancer or make helmets that are uber strong. Moreover, the detail that Helenita provides will allow nanotechnology researchers to create new therapies and treatments to fight a wide range of human diseases.
Did you know? Helenita can magnify a sample 20 million times its size, which would make a strand of human hair the size of San Antonio.
Join AIA San Antonio’s Women in Architecture group for their networking and happy hour event, where all design professionals are welcome.
Liberty Bar, 1111 S. Alamo St.
This documentary, presented by the San Antonio Film Festival, documents the experience of re-entry after incarceration. The film features Michael Gilbert, associate professor in the department of criminal justice and director of the Office of Community and Restorative Justice program at UTSA.
Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, 100 Auditorium Circle
Discover resources and strategies for teaching Tejano history and culture and get a special educator's tour of the new long-term exhibit, Los Tejanos.
Institute of Texan Cultures, 801 E. César E. Chávez Blvd.
This cowboy-themed programming, offered in conjunction with Our Kids Magazine's Kidcation Week, gives families the opportunity to visit with cowboy docents, enjoy readings and visit activity tables.
Institute of Texan Cultures, 801 E. Cesar E. Chavez Blvd.
The UTSA Alumni Association hosts this annual gala honoring the Alumna of the Year, Alumnus of the Year and the Alumnus of the Year Lifetime Achievement award winners.
Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa, 9800 Hyatt Resort Dr.
Victor Cyrus, Jr will see his first book of poetry published this fall
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