Noggin and the Growth of Brain Cells (neurons)


Noggin is a protein encoded by the NOG gene.  Among its functions is the promotion of neuron growth in the brain, particularly in the hippocampus, a region important in learning and memory.

While neurons do not reproduce themselves by cell division, new neurons can grow from neural stem cells in a process called neurogenesis.  Neural stem cells divide and produce more stem cells or develop into "baby neurons."

Neurogenesis is increased in adults by voluntary exercise, and this is where the Noggin protein comes in. 

Another protein, BMP (bone-morphogenetic protein) is found throughout the body and affects cellular development in a variety of ways.  In the brain, BMP reduces the rate of stem cell growth; the more BMP, the less stem cell activity. Noggin counteracts the effects of BMP.  In lab studies, mice that exercised increased their levels of Noggin and decreased their levels of BMP, which helps explain the mechanism for the earlier discovery that physical exercise contributes to the growth of new brain cells.

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