Recently, a new study conducted by scientists at UCL, Stockholm University and University of Helsinki found that a single gene called Angiopoietin-1 (Ang-1) controls brain size and intelligence in fish.
Scientists in this study employed guppies and zebra fish as models. To their surprise, fishes with larger brains and higher intelligence seemed to had higher expression of Ang-1. And when the expression levels of Ang-1 were dramatically reduced, the brain of the experimental fish shrunk. This, however, indicating that the expression of Ang-1 is really important for the brain growth and development in fish.
In the research, a 10% difference was found in the brain size between large and small-brain guppies and from the genetic analysis, Ang-1 was found to be the only gene expressed at different levels in each replicate population. Those scientists assumed that Ang-1 may play an important role in the brain development in humans. But further studies are needed absolutely.
“Other gene may be related in brain growth, but no other genes were found to vary in their expression in adult fish other than Ang-1. We plan to conduct further studies to investigate the role of Ang-1 and possibly other genes in the formation of differently sized brains in developing embryos” said Dr Niclas Kolm.
“We are not quite sure if Ang-1 is important in human brain development, but since it’s important in the forming of new blood vessels, we can assume that there may be a connection because large brains need a bigger blood supply.” added Professor Mank.