Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

From the Brain of a Locust ...

30.11.2010
TAU researcher takes an unorthodox route to understanding the human neurosystem

In the human brain, mechanical stress — the amount of pressure applied to a particular area — requires a delicate balance. Just the right force keeps neurons together and functioning as a system within the body, and proper nerve function is dependent on this tension.

Now researchers at Tel Aviv University say that mechanical stress plays an even more important role than medical science previously believed. Their research has the potential to tell us more than ever before about the form and function of neuronal systems, including the human brain. And they've used the common locust to prove it.

Prof. Amir Ayali of Tel Aviv University's Department of Zoology, with Prof. Yael Hanein of the School of Electrical Engineering and Prof. Eshel Ben-Jacob of the Department of Physics, has successfully cultured cells taken from the desert locust to delve deeper into the workings of the mammalian neurosystem. Their most recent discovery, he says, is that mechanical stress plays a pivotal role not only in the development of the brain, but also its function.

Recently published in several journals including Biophysical Journal and Nanotechnology, this research demonstrates that mechanical stress is instrumental in several key phenomena in neuronal development. Once a neuron has developed, explains Prof. Ayali, it is attracted to and then attaches to another neuron, which pulls it to the appropriate place within the neurosystem. "This tension is crucial for making the right connections," he says.

A neuron system in a dish

According to Prof. Ayali, insect cells provide a unique window into the world of neurons because they're easier to work with than human cells. Large enough to culture, Prof. Ayali and his fellow researchers harvested insect neurons and allowed them to regenerate, then built an in vitro nervous system in a dish. The team was then able to follow each single cell optically, watching how they regenerated and recording their electrical activity.

Most importantly, the team was able to observe the neurons form a network. A key feature, Prof. Ayali says, is mechanical tension. As the neurosystem develops, some cells are eliminated, while others are stabilized and preserved. Cells that successfully connect with one another maintain this connection through mechanical stress. This tension draws cells to their destined locations throughout the neurosystem. As neurons develop, they migrate to the appropriate location in the body, and it's mechanical stress that draws them there.

A meeting of the minds

Although the researchers' choice of insect cells for their investigation is unorthodox, Prof. Ayali says that the benefits are tremendous. The cells are basic enough to be applicable to any system, including the human neurosystem, he notes. If it were not for the large size and low density that insect cells provide, the team would not be able to follow individual cells and track the connections they make. "We're looking at simple phenomena that apply generally," he says. "The development from single cells to groups of clusters is common to every kind of neuron."

The research is unique in more ways than one. Prof. Ayali emphasizes that this project exhibits a truly interdisciplinary approach to neuroscience. The project includes researchers from numerous scientific fields, including zoology, electrical engineering and physics.

Keep up with the latest AFTAU news on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/AFTAUnews

George Hunka | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.aftau.org

Further reports about: Brain Locust human brain human cell mechanical stress single cell

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute

nachricht Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>