Parkinson’s disease is a debilitating condition in which the gradual loss of dopamine neurons in the brain results in characteristic symptoms such as tremors, difficulties with movement and impaired posture and balance. Obtaining brain cells from patients – for studying the disease and testing drugs - is practically impossible, so researchers often turn to accessible tissues like skin or blood and, through clever culturing techniques, induce these cells to convert into neurons. Such induced neurons are generally grown on 2D surfaces. But, the dopamine neurons pictured (green) were grown in a tiny gel-filled vessel, which allowed the cells to develop in 3D – more akin to the environment of the brain. Furthermore, the small size of these vessels allows for many individual cultures to be grown together and assayed in parallel. This innovative culturing technique should thus increase both the speed and relevance of results obtained from studying patient-derived neurons.
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