Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Shooting Stars

Following astrocytes – star-shaped nerve cells – as they divide and migrate in the developing brain

29 December 2019

Shooting Stars

Astrocytes are star-shaped nerve cells which pepper the developing brain, destined to become parts of different brain circuits. In these slices through an early mouse’s cerebral cortex, brightly-coloured ‘brainbow’ fluorescent sensors use blends of colour to highlight pairs of ‘sister’ astrocytes – cells descended from the same parent cell. The similarly-coloured siblings on the left are pictured a day later than those in the middle and appear to have grown further apart. This may suggest that 'related' astrocytes move away and intermingle – bringing diversity to areas of the developing brain. And perhaps only at a particular time – cells at a later developmental stage (right) don't show the same patterns of separation. Understanding more about how migrating astrocytes interact with their environment may reveal clues about how the brain’s circuitry matures before and after birth.

Written by John Ankers

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