Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Alluring Neurons
09 April 2016

Alluring Neurons

Toxoplasmosis, caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, is a disease that affects the brain and occurs in humans mainly as a result of eating parasite-infected meat or from contact with infected cats’ faeces. It doesn’t usually cause symptoms in healthy adults but for people with a weak immune system it can lead to life-threatening brain infections. Because laboratory experiments on isolated cells can’t accurately show the interaction with Toxoplasma, an innovative technique has been developed to track which brain cells the parasite invades in whole tissue. By engineering Toxoplasma to inject a molecule (Cre) into the cells it infects, scientists were able to see in a section of mouse brain (pictured) that the parasite prefers to interact with neurons (green fluorescence showing Cre) rather than astrocytes, another type of brain cell. This preference may be determined by the size and width of the neurons compared to other brain cells.

Written by Katie Panteli

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