Brain scientists in Sheffield get £200,000 grant

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SCIENTISTS in Sheffield have been awarded £200,000 to investigate the cause of common brain tumours in children.

The three-year study at Sheffield University, funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research, will concentrate on medulloblastomas, which make up 20 per cent of brain tumour cases in children and mainly affect youngsters aged between three and eight.

The tumours form in the cerebellum, the structure at the base of the brain which co-ordinates movement, posture and balance.

Dr Andrew Furley, from the university’s department of biomedical science, who is leading the study, said: “By studying the normal development of the cerebellum, scientists have already identified the key mechanisms that control its growth and have proved that damage to these mechanisms causes medulloblastoma. “However, our understanding of these mechanisms remains poor. We cannot explain a substantial number of medulloblastoma cases.

“We have discovered a new mechanism controlling normal cerebellar growth and now plan to test its involvement in medulloblastoma.”

The cerebellum contains the most neurons in the brain and develops very rapidly after birth, requiring a large increase in the number of its cells in a very short period. But sometimes the expansion goes wrong and the cells fail to stop growing.