Professor Yves Barde FRS

Professor Yves Barde

FRS

Professor / Sêr Cymru Research Chair in Neurobiology

School of Biosciences

Email:
bardey@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone:
+44 (0)29 2087 0987
Location:
Sir Martin Evans Building, Museum Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3AX
Media commentator

Our work focuses on growth factors known to play key roles in brain development and function. Some of these growth factors are found not only in the brain, but also in circulating blood platelets and we are exploring the possibility that they may be delivered to the nervous system by small vesicles derived from platelets. To this end we have generated a new mouse model allowing this hypothesis to be tested. This approach takes advantage of a major difference between mouse and primates with regard to the growth factor content of platelets. This work could lead to novel ways of delivering genetically encoded macromolecules to the brain over long periods of time.

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Much has been learned about molecular mechanisms operating in the mammalian nervous system using genetically modified animals. For example, the relevance of growth factors initially identified on the basis of cell culture assays could be firmly established by selectively eliminating the corresponding genes, typically using the mouse as model organism. These experiments have also helped understanding the physiology of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a secreted protein promoting the survival of specific populations of sensory neurons. Most of the current work focusses on the role of BDNF in synaptic plasticity, a key aspect of memory-related mechanisms, as well as in neuroprotection in humans. Whilst the generation of mouse mutants has been a key driver thus far, it is becoming apparent that there are major differences between primates and rodents with regard to the tissue distribution of BDNF. In particular, circulating blood platelets contain significant levels of BDNF in humans, higher than in the brain. But such is not the case in the mouse and the possibility that blood-derived BDNF may impact brain function could not be tested thus far. Our recent work identified megakaryocytes as the cellular origin of BDNF in human platelets and based on the related observation that mouse megakaryocytes do not contain BDNF, we generated a mouse model mimicking the situation in primates. These animals can now be bred with various mouse mutants. Using BDNF as an example, one of our major objectives is to test whether blood-derived macromolecules may reach the brain and modulate its function using platelets and small vesicles derived from them as carrier.

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