Parts of our brain produce new nerve cells, or neurons, to help sustain our mental capacity. It’s a process that‘s not well understood but could hold clues to new treatments for disorders such as strokes and Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists recently found an ingenious way of studying these nerve cell nurseries in mice. They infected newborn neurons with two viruses; one that remained inside the cell and produced a coloured protein, the other that spread outwards along nerve channels to connecting cells, marking them out in different colours according to cell type, in stained tissue samples. After several weeks, it was possible to map out the position of the new neurons and the network of connecting cells. Here, appearing yellow, we see a type of cell known as a neuroconnector, which has clearly linked with a new neuron.
Written by Mick Warwicker
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