Narrator: This is Science Today. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco have identified a protein that plays a key role in releasing glutamate - one of the brain's major neurotransmitters. Dr. Robert Edwards, who led the study, says understanding this process may lead to new targets for treating an array of neuro- degenerative diseases, as well as give scientists better insight about the function of glutamate.
Edwards: The ability of the brain to process information is largely due to glutamate and at the same time, it also contributes to learning and memory and all sorts of other interesting phenomena as well, so it's a very central - if not the central transmitter in the brain.
Narrator: But too much glutamate has been linked to situations including seizures, stroke and Alzheimer's disease. So discovering a protein that regulates this critical brain messenger may lead to better inhibitory drugs.
Edwards: We have some drugs that can inhibit the receptors that glutamate binds to but those drugs, they're either not potent enough or they're not selective enough. So if there's some way in which we can interfere with the release of glutamate - that might have a more potent effect.Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.