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Famous Breast Cancer Gene Could Affect Brain Growth

Unknown Lamer posted about 6 months ago | from the programmer-error dept.

Biotech 31

sciencehabit writes "The cancer gene BRCA1, which keeps tumors in the breast and ovaries at bay by producing proteins that repair damaged DNA, may also regulate brain size. Mice carrying a mutated copy of the gene have 10-fold fewer neurons and had other brain abnormalities, a new study (abstract) suggests. Such dramatic effects on brain size and function are unlikely in human carriers of BRCA1 mutations, the authors of the study note, but they propose the findings could shed light on the gene's role in brain evolution."

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it's on our jeans? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46514799)

yikes almighty http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=brain+polymers+morgellons

So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46514815)

...I can be smart or I can get cancer...

Re: So... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46514869)

So... Big tits, small brains? Or no tits and big brains?

I'd like to cast my vote for the former. Big brains are overrated.

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46515087)

Why would resistance to breast cancer give you large breasts?

Re:So... (1)

Carewolf (581105) | about 6 months ago | (#46515107)

On the plus side, in men it will stop breast cancer and give us small brains. I think women gets the most out this mutation.

Re:So... (4, Informative)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 6 months ago | (#46515261)

You're probably not the only one wondering if there's a connection. The answer is basically no.

the dramatic effects documented in the mice in the study are unlikely to occur in women with a BRCA1 mutation, who still have some functioning BRCA1, compared with the mice who had none at all.

From skimming google, it looks like women with a Brca1 mutation have one functional copy, that mutations in both would cause death in embryonic stages. Mice lacking both copies of Brca1 are dead before birth. [nih.gov] The mice here had the gene only lost in neural tissue.

The current finding doesn't seem like a surprise. It seems to only be news because of marketing. Brca1 is probably the closest thing to a gene with a household name due to the breast cancer tie in and the patent insanity. Neural stem cells seem to have higher requirements for a lot of "housekeeping" genes. [nih.gov] And Brca1 regulates DNA repair. [wikipedia.org] As I said, we already knew that the gene was important for cell survival. This paper isn't even the first to knock it out in specific tissues. [nih.gov]

You take away a gene critical for cell survival and neural stem cells die? Wow, what a shock. Hey, I have evidence that FIRE kills neural stem cells! I should write that up and send it to PNAS too!

(Joking aside, I haven't fully read the paper. It looks like good science, I don't object to it being published in PNAS, just saying this isn't all that surprising.)

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46515411)

Perhaps it was good science, but the report appears to have been rushed out the door for whatever reason. What impressed you about this paper?

Dynamite charts: unmitigated evil? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46514837)

People need to stop with those charts. They convey nearly zero info.
http://emdbolker.wikidot.com/blog:dynamite

Quality Control for DNA 'Division' (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 6 months ago | (#46514847)

I find it nerdy and interesting the body has in place it's own sentinel to address DNA irregularities.

FTA: More than half the women with a mutated copy of the BRCA1 gene will develop breast cancer...

I suspect this is the marker used to inspire Mrs. Pitt to preemptively undergo the double-mastectomy... cue the small brain/breast jokes.

Re:Quality Control for DNA 'Division' (2)

fey000 (1374173) | about 6 months ago | (#46514983)

I find it nerdy and interesting the body has in place it's own sentinel to address DNA irregularities.

FTA: More than half the women with a mutated copy of the BRCA1 gene will develop breast cancer...

I suspect this is the marker used to inspire Mrs. Pitt to preemptively undergo the double-mastectomy... cue the small brain/breast jokes.

Actually, there are multiple sentinels for this. Unfortunately, they are built in a more hierarchical way than desirable, meaning that once the top tumor suppression mechanism is silenced (through mutations, genetics, epigenetics or what have you), the next level is defenseless (, and DNA repair genes are a part of the tumor defense league). This is also the reason why cancer is so common in the elderly.

As for the connection to brain size evolution in humans, I would take that with a grain of salt. There are far too many functional networks and biological pathways in between brain size and breast homeostasis to make any causal claims.

Re:Quality Control for DNA 'Division' (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46515367)

Is this paper of normal quality for PNAS? The methods section is extremely short, and they don't appear to have reported many of their sample sizes. The one they did report was small, many of the results presented appear to only be representative example images giving us no way of assessing the variability of the results.

Re:Quality Control for DNA 'Division' (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | about 6 months ago | (#46517275)

Ok, you asked for it. But this is definitely what I now know is an autistic version.

Early in high school, I recognized an inverse relationship between bra cup size and the need for women to perform academically. My theory was that this was a holdover of evolutionary misogyny- that women with more assets had other ways of getting good grades from male teachers and/or extra tutoring help from male students.

Tastefully Done, Sir....re:pretty (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 6 months ago | (#46520191)

On the one hand, a girl blessed with those superficial physical characteristics the men of her day find attractive in a mate will be afforded some advantages. While my list will not be jointly exhaustive, this lady who's lucky to be lovely will enjoy preferential mating status, she will be offered employment opportunities beyond her grade, she will get out of an arse load of traffic tickets, and folks will generally be overtly polite to her (yes, even other females who can't stand her).

The clear on the order of crystal advantages are easy-peasy to imagine. So you think you'd rather been born pretty?

Maybe not. Though intelligence and pretty are not mutually exclusive, human nature suggests that if you are able to ply advantage on your looks, you're not going to study as hard as the poor girl who looks like her big-nosed brother with long hair. (Ever have a friend who's sister wasn't completely unattractive, but looked just like him in the face?) And then one day, despite all the organic food, magical facial creams, clever aesthetic surgeons, and your best intentions... shoot, you're old with no particular skill set. Yes sir, old age is the revenge of the girls who had to work a little harder on merit.

Tits stimulate evolution (1)

abies (607076) | about 6 months ago | (#46514881)

Or do I have to read TFA?

tits or brains (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46514905)

So it's tits or brains .. that explains a lot.

Mutated copy? (1)

SargentDU (1161355) | about 6 months ago | (#46514909)

So a mutated copy caused the results in mice. How about unmutated copies? They did not answer the question did they?

Re:Mutated copy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46515097)

Its better to do a few things right rather than just check a million things. It looks like this was a small study (n=3 or not reported for some parts, possibly 1). It looks like the mice didn't eat at all for the first two weeks of their lives, possibly that's why their brains were messed up but I didn't notice any discussion of that.

Infamous? (1)

jittles (1613415) | about 6 months ago | (#46514967)

Shouldn't it be infamous? After all Infamous means it's more than famous. It's not only famous, it's infamous

Re:Infamous? (1)

swb (14022) | about 6 months ago | (#46515159)

No, that's not right. Infamous implies being famous for negative reasons.

Queen Elizabeth is famous, but King Henry VIII is infamous.

Re:Infamous? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46515397)

Uh.. That 3 Amigos reference skipped right by you?

Mice with mutated brains? Eeek! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46514989)

Mice carrying a mutated copy of the gene have 10-fold fewer neurons and had other brain abnormalities

"What are we going to do today, Brain?"
"Same thing we do every day, Pinky. Take over the world!"

In My Experience... (2)

moehoward (668736) | about 6 months ago | (#46515121)

I have one of the BRCA1 mutations (there are several known varieties) that causes a greatly heightened risk of some cancers. Not just breast cancer in women, but a very high risk of ovarian cancer as well. For both women and men, the risks of pancreatic, colon, and others are raised. For men, the risk of prostate cancer is greatly increased. The pancreatic and ovarian cancers are especially nasty, but all risk factors here require heightened vigilance for continual screening throughout life.

I have quite a few family members with the mutation and many without it. There are just as many idiotic, brain defective family members both with it and without. I am not one of them.

So, that pretty much solves the science on that one. Next?

Re:In My Experience... (1)

Jeff Flanagan (2981883) | about 6 months ago | (#46515259)

Has knowing that you have this mutation caused you to change your life in any way?

Re:In My Experience... (1)

moehoward (668736) | about 6 months ago | (#46515333)

Yes. Quite a bit. Diet and exercise for one in a major way, but really slowly over time. Screening programs for pancreatic, prostate, colon, and other cancers. Involvement in long-term studies. Chose not to have any more kids after I found out. How I will approach reproduction/adoption discussion with my own kids in case they are carriers. Makes ya think...

Upshot.. (1)

ThatsDrDangerToYou (3480047) | about 6 months ago | (#46515209)

Someday we will all have giant pulsating heads that can barely contain our brains, pretty much like the Star Trek Talosians..

http://en.memory-alpha.org/wik... [memory-alpha.org]

"In the future, women will have breasts all over." - David Byrne

Re:Upshot.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46515283)

In this future, we will all be breast cancer free irrespective of the role that beer has played in growing them.

Brain Size linked to Breast Size? (1)

wilby (141905) | about 6 months ago | (#46515285)

I have not read the article.
I know that an inverse relationship between brain size and breast size has been postulated for decades.

This Just In... (1)

drewsup (990717) | about 6 months ago | (#46515497)

Woman with sick tits are stupid, news at 11...

"10-fold fewer" WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46515741)

This kind of meaningless math has got to stop.
It's like "ten times less..."
Ten times what less than what?
Hell, it's not even math.

Could they have meant "one tenth the number of neurons"?
I think someone would notice that...

Bugs in the code..... (1)

LoRdTAW (99712) | about 6 months ago | (#46515967)

I think that as we make more and more links between genes and how they affect the development of our body, we will find out they are crosslinked with other functions. Its like bug ridden code where fixing one bug causes another to pop up.

Our DNA codebase has been around for quite a long time. Perhaps it is as old as some of the first life to form on Earth. I would hazard a guess that it is ridden with "bugs" and debugging it will become a tricky operation. I also suspect that there are no magic genes that can turn things on or off with the flick of a switch without changing the state of another piece of genetic code.

Maybe we need to become more functional in order to reduce side effects :)

God: "I want it yesterday!" (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 6 months ago | (#46516503)

The human brain has undergone tremendous evolutionary changes in a relatively short period of time. One of the most amazing pieces of nature's engineering was pressured to become even more amazing in just a few million years. It's quite possible there are some downsides from this genetic "rush job".

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