Despite its critical function in controlling our thoughts and actions, the brain is incredibly fragile. Once damaged, whether through injury or neurodegenerative diseases, neurons generally cannot be replaced, causing permanent loss of brain functions. Neuronal transplants offer a potential solution to this problem, but how well new neurons integrate into the host brain was until recently still unknown. In a landmark study, researchers working on the mouse visual cortex have demonstrated that transplanted neurons (in blue) can form appropriate functional connections with the existing cells around them (in yellow). Transplanted embryonic nerve cells were monitored as they differentiated into the correct cell types and contacted other neurons in a stereotypical way, effectively replacing missing cells in the damaged tissues of adult mice. Suggesting that the mammalian brain really can use transplanted cells to repair itself, this study raises hopes that transplants could one day help mitigate brain damage in humans.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.