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    The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
    • 2015-11-11 13:05:00
    • Article ID: 643027

    Scientists ID Genetic Factors that Influence Body Weight and Neurological Disorders

    Berkeley Lab researchers study mice to shed light on genetic risks of Alzheimer's, other diseases

    Many neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, are marked by impaired motor skills. In addition, growing evidence suggests there’s a link between some neurodegenerative diseases and body weight. A recent NIH study, for example, found that adults who are obese or overweight at midlife may be at risk for earlier onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

    Despite these compelling findings, the genetic risk factors that contribute to the connections between motor impairment, obesity, and neurological disorders are poorly understood. Learning more about these links could shed light on the causes of many neurodegenerative diseases, and possibly lead to new therapies.

    Now, a new study by scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has identified genetic factors that influence motor performance and body weight in a genetically diverse group of mice. The researchers also found the genes identified in the mice overlap significantly with genes related to neurological disorders and obesity in people.

    The research, reported November 9 in the journal Scientific Reports, provides further evidence for a link between obesity and neurodegenerative disease. It could also help guide the search for the genetic roots of neurological diseases.

    “Our research provides a new framework for studying the genetic associations between motor skills, body weight, and diseases effecting the central nervous system,” says Antoine Snijders of Berkeley Lab’s Biological Systems and Engineering Division. He conducted the research with Jian-Hua Mao and several other Berkeley Lab scientists.

    The scientists studied a recently developed population of laboratory mice specially bred to be as genetically diverse as the human population. This mouse model, called the Collaborative Cross, encompasses nearly 90 percent of the genetic variation in lab mice. About 95 percent of human disease genes are found in the mouse genome, providing an important resource for human health research. Studying mice also allow scientists to control for other factors besides genetics that can affect disease, such as environmental conditions and diet.

    The scientists used 365 mice from the mouse model, measuring their body weight and rotarod performance at ten weeks of age. A rotarod is a rod that rotates more quickly over time, forcing mice to balance like a lumberjack at a log rolling competition. As expected from such a genetically diverse population of mice, the researchers found a wide variation in the mice’s ability to balance on the rotarod. Also as expected, they found that heavier mice didn’t last as long on the rotarod as lighter mice.

    The researchers then conducted a genetic linkage analysis and discovered that both rotarod performance and body weight are very complex, in that they both involve a large number of regions of the genome. Specifically, they found 14 regions associated with body weight and 45 associated with rotarod performance. Seven of these overlap, for a total of 52 regions associated with rotarod performance and body weight.

    To translate these findings to humans, the scientists compared the 1694 mouse genes in the 52 regions with human genes associated with body weight and neurological disorders, as identified in several genome-wide association studies.

    They found that 103 mouse genes in 39 of the 52 regions overlap with 1766 human genes. For example, genome-wide association studies have identified 186 genes in humans associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The Berkeley Lab scientists found seven of these genes in the mice regions. In addition, 834 human genes are associated with obesity. The scientists found 48 of these genes are important in the mouse rotorod experiments. Similar strong overlaps were found for Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and other diseases.

    “This demonstrates that the Collaborative Cross mouse model can help us find genetic risk factors for neurological and other diseases,” says Mao.

    Mao and Snijders are also using the Collaborative Cross mice in a Microbes to Biomes project to explore and reveal the interactions of gut microbes, their hosts, and the environment.

    The research was funded by Berkeley Lab’s Microbes to Biomes Laboratory Directed Research and Development program and the Office of Naval Research.

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    Explaining Light-Nuclei Production in Heavy-Ion Nuclear Collisions

    Explaining Light-Nuclei Production in Heavy-Ion Nuclear Collisions

    Pairs of sub-atomic particles may catalyze reactions that happened moments after the Big Bang.

    Scientists hit pay dirt with new microbial research technique

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    Scientists make first high-res movies of proteins forming crystals in a living cell

    Scientists make first high-res movies of proteins forming crystals in a living cell

    Scientists have made the first observations of proteins assembling themselves into crystals, one molecule at a time, in a living cell. The method they used to watch this happen - an extremely high-res form of molecular moviemaking ­- could shed light on other important biological processes and help develop nanoscale technologies inspired by nature.

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    John Crane acquires division of Advanced Diamond Technologies, a company built on Argonne technology

    John Crane acquires division of Advanced Diamond Technologies, a company built on Argonne technology

    John Crane, a global provider of engineered products and services headquartered in Chicago, recently completed the purchase of Advanced Diamond Technologies (ADT), Industrial Division. ADT was founded in 2003 through the licensing of technology from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Argonne National Laboratory.

    Energy Department to Invest $32 Million in Computer Design of Materials

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    Demarteau to head ORNL Physics Division

    Demarteau to head ORNL Physics Division

    The Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory has named Marcel Demarteau as Physics Division Director, effective June 17.

    PPPL and Oak Ridge manage new DOE program designed to speed development of fusion energy with private-public partnerships

    PPPL and Oak Ridge manage new DOE program designed to speed development of fusion energy with private-public partnerships

    Feature describes PPPL role in innovative DOE program to promote public-private partnerships to speed development of fusion energy.

    ORNL welcomes seven new research fellows to Innovation Crossroads

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    Oak Ridge National Laboratory welcomed seven technology innovators to join the third cohort of Innovation Crossroads, the Southeast's only entrepreneurial research and development program based at a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory.

    New DOE program connects fusion companies with national labs, taps ORNL to lead

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    The Department of Energy has established the Innovation Network for Fusion Energy program, or INFUSE, to encourage private-public research partnerships for overcoming challenges in fusion energy development.

    Department of Energy Announces $75 Million for High Energy Physics Research

    The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $75 million in funding for 66 university research awards on a range of topics in high energy physics to advance knowledge of how the universe works at its most fundamental level.

    Ames Laboratory names James Morris Chief Research Officer

    Ames Laboratory names James Morris Chief Research Officer

    Dr. James Morris has been named Chief Research Officer at the Department of Energy's (DOE) Ames Laboratory. His appointment follows an extensive search and will be effective June 17, 2019.

    Four scientists at PPPL awarded national and international honors

    Four scientists at PPPL awarded national and international honors

    Feature profiles four PPPL scientists who have received high honors.

    Brookhaven's Mircea Cotlet Named a Battelle "Inventor of the Year"

    Brookhaven's Mircea Cotlet Named a Battelle "Inventor of the Year"

    The global science and technology organization Battelle recognized materials scientist Mircea Cotlet of Brookhaven Lab's Center for Functional Nanomaterials for his research in applying self-assembly methods to control the interfaces between nanomaterials and other light-interacting components.


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    Deep Learning Reveals Mysteries of Deep Space

    Deep Learning Reveals Mysteries of Deep Space

    How do you determine the measurable "things" that describe the nature of our universe? To answer that question, researchers used CosmoFlow, a deep learning technique, running on a National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center supercomputer. They analyzed large, complex data sets from 3-D simulations of the distribution of matter to answer that question. The team showed that CosmoFlow offers a new platform to gain a deeper understanding of the universe.

    Explaining Light-Nuclei Production in Heavy-Ion Nuclear Collisions

    Explaining Light-Nuclei Production in Heavy-Ion Nuclear Collisions

    Pairs of sub-atomic particles may catalyze reactions that happened moments after the Big Bang.

    STAR Gains Access to "Wimpy" Quarks and Gluons

    STAR Gains Access to "Wimpy" Quarks and Gluons

    Low-momentum (wimpy) quarks and gluons contribute to proton spin, offering insights into protons' behavior in all visible matter.

    Flipping the Script with Reverse D-Shaped Plasmas

    Flipping the Script with Reverse D-Shaped Plasmas

    Mirrored D shape demonstrates surprisingly high pressures in a tokamak, indicating a shape change may be in order for next-generation fusion reactors.

    Designer Frameworks for Refining Higher Octane Fuels

    Designer Frameworks for Refining Higher Octane Fuels

    Metal-organic frameworks designed with a topology-guided approach show higher efficiency than commercial benchmarks.

    A Trojan Horse for Fusion Disruptions

    A Trojan Horse for Fusion Disruptions

    Thin-walled diamond shells carry payloads of boron dust; the dust mitigates destructive plasma disruptions in fusion confinement systems.

    Found: New Bismuth Compounds in Well-Known Systems of Two Elements

    Found: New Bismuth Compounds in Well-Known Systems of Two Elements

    Scientists discover an unexpected source of new materials, with potential for energy applications.

    Flowing for Function

    Flowing for Function

    A flowing magnetically responsive liquid seamlessly regulates the shape and properties of solids, letting them perform an array of jobs.

    Superconducting Films for Particle Acceleration

    Superconducting Films for Particle Acceleration

    Researchers demonstrated record accelerating cavity performance using a technique that could lead to significant cost savings.

    Parceling Particle Beams

    Parceling Particle Beams

    Beam chopper cuts accelerator-generated ion beams under highly demanding conditions.


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