December 11, 2018

New Study Finds Asparagine Essential for Brain Development

A new study from scientists at the University of Montreal has found that asparagine, an amino acid that has been considered non-essential because the body produces it naturally, may be an essential amino acid required in our diets. Senior co-author of the study, Dr. Jacques Michaud, said, “the cells of the body can do without it because they use asparagine provided through diet. Asparagine, however, is not well transported to the brain via the blood-brain barrier.” Asparagine is found in meats, eggs, and dairy products.

Eggs FPBThe scientists looked at people who carry a mutation that causes a rare disease called congenital microcephaly. They found that a specific genetic variant caused a deficiency of the enzyme that synthesizes the amino acid. If the brain doesn’t get enough asparagine, cells do not survive when the brain is growing.

That particular amino acid is essential for normal brain development. The brain depends on local synthesis of asparagine to function properly. In the future, infants may be given an asparagine supplement to ensure an adequate level of this nutrient. The researchers are still trying to determine the amount of supplementation needed, as well as its effectiveness.

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