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The molecular atlas of brain development is ready

2021-07-30T08:27:43.467Z

The molecular atlas that maps the development of brain cells is ready: obtained thanks to a study on the mouse, it provides valuable information for the fight against neurodegenerative and developmental diseases (ANSA)



The molecular atlas that maps the development of brain cells is ready: obtained thanks to a study on the mouse, it provides valuable information for the fight against neurodegenerative and developmental diseases.

The result is published in the journal Nature by the Federal Polytechnic of Lausanne (Epfl) and Karolinska Institute of Stockholm, under the guidance of a young Italian researcher, the biologist Gioele La Manno, head of the Epfl neurodevelopmental systems biology laboratory.



To monitor the evolution of individual cells and trace their differentiation path over time, the researchers analyzed brain samples taken daily from mouse embryos from day 7 of development until birth. By combining genetic sequencing techniques with mathematical methods, they were able to define 290,000 profiles with the gene expression of single cells in each part of the brain, taking 800 'snapshots' showing the cells engaged in different differentiation programs.



It was thus possible to define the timing with which the first nerve cells (neuroblasts, involved in motor and sensory functions) develop and how specific glial cells orchestrate the development of neighboring cells.


Diagram of the nerve cell families represented in the brain development atlas (source: Molecular atlas © Laboratory of Neurodevelopmental Systems Biology / EPFL)



The researchers also identified cell populations of very different sizes, some even a hundred times more numerous than others: including the largest groups are that of excitatory neurons of the anterior part of the brain (involved in higher cognitive functions), while among the smaller groups there is that of ependymal cells that produce the fluid that surrounds and protects the brain and marrow spinal.



Manno hopes that the atlas, made accessible to the entire scientific community, will help identify genes involved in developmental diseases of the nervous system and brain tumors. The next step will be to understand the exact location of the different cell populations in the developing brain. "The current atlas shows which cells are similar and which are different: now - concludes La Manno - we want to see where they are in the brain".

Source: ansa

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