When selenium is scarce, brain battles testes for it | Science News

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When selenium is scarce, brain battles testes for it

Mice studies reveal dueling demands for essential nutrient

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5:00pm, November 17, 2015

ESSENTIAL ELEMENT  Brains and testes both require selenium, a nutrient people get from such foods as fish, organ meats and plants grown in selenium-rich soil. Mouse studies show that when the element is in short supply, the testes and brain compete. 

Faced with a shortage of the essential nutrient selenium, the brain and the testes duke it out. In selenium-depleted male mice, testes hog the trace element, leaving the brain in the lurch, scientists report in the Nov. 18 Journal of Neuroscience.

The results are some of the first to show competition between two organs for trace nutrients, says analytical neurochemist Dominic Hare of the University of Technology Sydney and the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health in Melbourne. In addition to uncovering this brain-testes scuffle, the study “highlights that selenium in the brain is something we can’t continue to ignore,” he says. 

About two dozen proteins in the body contain selenium, a nonmetallic chemical element. Some of these proteins are antioxidants that keep harmful molecules called free radicals from causing trouble.

Male mice without enough selenium

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