An American study on mice has revealed a gene which is critical to the development of the brain.
Dr. Anthony Wynshaw-Boris of the University of California, San Francisco worked with a professor at the University of California, San Diego during the study that led to the identification of the gene LIS1.
He says that this gene is critical for the correct division of the brain's first cells called neuroepithelial stem cells, which divide continuously in the earliest days of brain development to produce a population of cells that eventually evolves into the various cells of the fully formed brain.
The researcher says that neuroepithelial stem cells fail to divide, and die in the absence of this gene.
Insisting that his finding offers insight into the first steps of brain development, Dr. Wynshaw-Boris says that it may shed light on a rare paediatric disorder known as lissencephaly or "smooth brain" disease that often leads to retardation, seizures and early childhood death.
"It gives insight into these rare diseases and what's important for normal brain development," he says.
During the course of study, the scientists investigated embryonic mice genetically engineered to completely lack LIS1 in their cells at various stages of embryonic development.
The experiment showed the LIS1 gene to be essential for cell division in neuroepithelial stem cells.
Dr. Wynshaw-Boris claims that his study is the first to decipher what role the LIS1 gene plays earlier on in brain development, i.e. in neuroepithelial stem cells.
The study has been published in the journal Cell.