N-Acetyl aspartate

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N-Acetyl aspartate (NAA) is a derivative of aspartic acid with a formula of C6H9NO5 and a molecular weight of 175.139.

NAA is the second most concentrated molecule in the brain after the amino acid glutamate. NAA is synthesized in neurons from the amino acid aspartate and acetyl coenzyme A. The various functions served by NAA are still under investigation, but the primary proposed functions include:

1) A neuronal osmolyte that is involved in fluid balance in the brain 2) A source of acetate for lipid and myelin synthesis in oligodendrocytes, the glial cells that myelinate neuronal axons 3) A precursor for the synthesis of the important neuronal dipeptide N-acetylaspartylglutamate 4) NAA may also be involved in energy production from the amino acid glutamate in neuronal mitochondria

NAA gives off the largest signal in magnetic resonance spectroscopy of the human brain, and the levels measured there are decreased in numerous neuropathological conditions ranging from brain injury to stroke to Alzheimer disease. This fact makes NAA a reliable diagnostic molecule for doctors treating patients with brain damage or disease.

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N-Acetyl aspartate

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