Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Space Between Us

The space between cells plays an important role in the central nervous system

19 November 2020

Space Between Us

In search of answers to neuroscience’s biggest questions, researchers are understandably drawn to study the inner workings of brain cells. But what about the spaces between them? The gaps between all brain cells interconnect to form a three-dimensional web called extracellular space (ECS). Although contributing to 15–20% of the brain’s total volume, we know relatively little about how ECS helps us interact with the world around us. Using a new imaging technique, researchers measured ECS in the mouse retina by calculating the brightness of an ECS-specific dye. In this example mouse retina, we see the light-sensitive photoreceptors on the left, supporting retinal ganglion cells on the right, and ECS in between (green). When mice were exposed to light, the ECS dye became brighter, indicating a change in ECS volume. This study suggests ECS does more than fill the gaps and contributes to how we make sense of what we see.

Written by Gaëlle Coullon

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