Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Exploring Family Trees

Human brain organoid allows study of gene expression and timing during cerebral cortex development

17 May 2023

Exploring Family Trees

The cerebral cortex is the outermost layer of your brain, but creating this layered structure is a highly elaborate process during development. It requires early brain cell ancestors – called neural progenitor cells – to differentiate and create later generations of neurons and brain cells called glia. Integral to differentiation is ensuring that genes are switched on at the right time, but also that their genetic instructions are translated into an abundance of proteins to allow progenitors to become brain cells. The importance of these gene-protein networks and their timing during this process is known in mice, but remains unclear in humans. Researchers have now created a human brain organoid (pictured) that allows them to track progenitors (green) and neurons (magenta) simultaneously (all cell nuclei shown in white). This lab-grown ‘mini brain’ allows both cell types from different stages during development to be isolated and analysed, building a more detailed plan of this process.

Written by Sophie Arthur

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