Get a knock on your noggin? Have no fear, KCC2 is here!

“The destiny of neurons in a damaged brain depends on a tiny equilibrium between pro-survival and pro-death signals. We wanted to know what KCC2 was signalling for — was it killing neurons or protecting them after an injury? Our study has found that KCC2 actually rescues the damaged cells.”

The team studied damaged neurons from the hippocampus region of the brain, an area responsible for attention, spatial memory and navigation. They removed KCC2 altogether from damaged cells and found they died. But when they artificially increased the levels of KCC2 (by stimulating its expression using gene therapy), they found the damaged cells were protected from further damage, and death.

Dr Medina continued: “The death of neurons in the brain can be triggered by an imbalance of oxygen — known as oxidative damage, or where cells are incorrectly instructed to die by a neurotransmitter — a process known as excitotoxicity. KCC2 protects against both. It’s really encouraging that we have identified a means of potentially protecting the brain from these common conditions.”