Transplanting healthy neurons to help heal brain injury – influence of the brain environment on connectivity
Our brain cells, or neurons, form circuits to store our memories and process thoughts. They connect up at synapses – junctions where they exchange chemical messages. Brain injuries often destroy this fragile architecture, so here researchers investigate how transplanting healthy neurons might help to heal these complex wounds. A high-powered microscope focuses at different depths in a wounded mouse brain, watching as a transplanted cell (highlighted in turquoise) reaches out. It develops structures ready to form synapses – tiny ‘boutons’ (bright dots) along some of its outstretched branches. But after traumatic brain injury neighbouring neurons react too strongly–forming too many connections that may overwhelm the neurons, leading to seizures, and then pruning too many away as the brain tries to correct itself. The next challenge is to find the right balance of neighbourly signals to restore a healthy community of neurons to recovering brains.
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