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Neuroscience: Key Protein Found for Brain's Dopamine-Producing Neurons

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Science  11 Apr 1997:
Vol. 276, Issue 5310, pp. 202
DOI: 10.1126/science.276.5310.202

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The brain needs to have just the right balance of all its chemical neurotransmitters. In work reported on page 248, researchers have now identified a molecule that appears to play a key role in maintaining the balance of one major neurotransmitter: dopamine. The molecule, a protein that goes by the name Nurr1, is needed during embryonic development for the formation of the set of dopamine-producing neurons, loss of which leads to Parkinson's disease. Nurr1 also appears to help keep those cells active throughout life. Neurobiologists are intrigued by the finding because it may help explain what causes Parkinson's and also provides a tantalizing new target for drugs that might prevent or treat the disease.