Transforming brain research with jellyfish genes and advances in microscopy
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis are transplanting jellyfish genes into mice to watch how neural connections change in the brains of entire living animals. The development represents the merging of several technologies and enable researchers to watch changes inside living animals during normal development and during disease progression in a relatively non-invasive way.
"This work represents a new approach to studying the biology of whole, living animals," says Jeff W. Lichtman, M.D., Ph.D., professor of anatomy and neurobiology. "I believe these methods will transform not only neurobiology, but also immunology and studies of organs such as the kidney, liver, and lung."
Lichtman presented the work at the 40th annual New Horizons in Science Briefing, sponsored by the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing, held Oct. 27-30 at Washington University in St. Louis.
"The experiences we have in the world somehow shape our brains," says Lichtman. "How this information is encoded in our nervous systems is one of the deep, fundamental questions of neurobiology."
To help answer that question, Lichtman, together with Joshua R. Sanes, Ph.D., Alumni Endowed Professor of Neurobiology, and other colleagues at the School of Medicine, have developed strains of mice with nerve tracts stained by up to four different fluorescent jellyfish proteins, each of which glows with a different color when exposed to the correct energy of light. Using an advanced technology such as low-light-level digital imaging, confocal microscopy and two-photon microscopy, the investigators can observe over time nerve cells and the synapses that interconnect them within the brain.
Two-photon microscopy uses a powerful infrared laser that can selectively stimulate the fluorescent proteins within the nerve cells deep within the brain to glow. This approach permits imaging the brain without having to penetrate the skull. Computerized techniques then produce three-dimensional images of neural connections in the living animal, enabling the researchers to watch how patterns of connections between neurons change during learning and development.
The researchers’ studies are providing fascinating clues about how learning occurs in the brain. For example, it seems that nerve cells in the brain begin with many connections to other nerve cells. With time, many of these connections are eliminated shortly after birth.
"The brain begins with many diffuse and unspecialized sets of connections, and then sort of sculpts out subsets of those connections to serve particular functions," says Lichtman. "In essence, it seems that as we improve at some things, we lose our ability for other things."
Contact: Darrell E. Ward, assc. director for research communications, Washington University School of Medicine, (314) 286-0122; firstname.lastname@example.org
Darrell Ward | EurekAlert!
The most recent press releases about innovation >>>
Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...