A New Form of AstrocyteNeuron Communication Has Been Identified

A New Form of AstrocyteNeuron Communication Has Been Identified ...

Researchers at Tufts University School of Medicine have discovered a previously unidentified function by a type of cell that comprises approximately half of all cells in the brain.

This discovery of a new function by astrocytes in mice is a new direction for neuroscience research that might one day lead to treatment for a wide spectrum of ailments, from epilepsy to Alzheimers to traumatic brain injury.

It''s down to how astrocytes interact with neurons, which are essential cells of the brain and nervous system that receive input from the outside world. Through a complex set of electrical and chemical signals, neurons transmit information between different areas of the brain and between the brain and the rest of the nervous system.

Originally, scientists believed that astrocytes were essential, but they also had lesser cast members in this activity. Astrocytes are responsible for the growth of axons, the long, thin projection of a neuron that conducts electrical impulses. They also control neurotransmitters, chemicals that facilitate the transfer of electrical signals throughout the brain and nervous system.

They did not appear to be electrically active as the all-important neurons until now.

According toChris Dulla, an associate professor of neuroscience at the School of Medicine and Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, and his coauthor on a paper todaybyNature Neuroscience. We have discovered a new way that two of the most important cells in the brain talk to each other. Because there is so much uncertainty about how the brain works, discovering new fundamental processes is vital to developing novel therapies for neurological diseases."

Other authors include Saptarnab Naskar, Mary Sommer, Elliot Kim, and Philip G. Haydon from Tufts University School of Medicine, Jacqueline P. Garcia from theCell, Molecular and Developmental Biology program at TuftsGraduate School of Biomedical Sciences, and researchers from other institutions.

We have discovered a new technique in which two of the most vital brain cells communicate to each other. Because there is so much uncertainty about how the brain works, it is crucial to develop innovative treatments for neurological diseases.

Chris Dulla

Associate Professor of Neuroscience, School of Medicine, and Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

The team used a brand-new technology to create a technique that allows them to see and study the electrical properties of brain cell interactions, which they discovered previously.

With these new tools, we''ve essentially discovered completely new aspects of biology, according to Armbruster, a research assistant professor of neuroscience at the School of Medicine. As more advanced tools come along, new fluorescent sensors are constantly being developed, and we''ll gain a deeper understanding of things we didn''t even think about before.

Dulla says the new technology is capturing electrical activity with light. Neurons are very electrically active, and the new technology allows us to see that astrocytes are also electrically active.

Dulla describes astrocytes as ensuring everything is copacetic in the brain, and when something goes wrong, they detect it, try to respond, and then try to protect the brain from insults. What we intend to do next is determine how astrocytes alter when these insults happen.

The release of packets of chemicals called neurotransmitters was involved in neuron-to-neuron communication. Scientists knew that astrocytes control neurotransmitters, which were helpful in making sure that neurons remain healthy and active. However, a new study shows that neurons also release potassium ions, which affect the electrical activity of the astrocyte and how it controls the neurotransmitters.

So the neuron is controlling what the astrocyte is doing, and they are communicating back and forth. Neurons and astrocytes talk in a way that hasn''t been known before.

The Impact on Future Research

The discovery of astrocyte-neuron crosstalk raises many questions about how interactions interact in brain pathology and in learning and memory. It encourages us to rethink what astrocytes do, and how the fact that astrocytes are electrically active might affect a wide variety of neurological diseases.

astrocytes are reluctant to control neurotransmitters, even if that is their primary goal, Dulla says. Similar conditions with traumatic brain injury and epilepsy have erupted. For years, scientists believe that a protein is absent or a mutation that causes the protein to fail.

According to Armbruster, a build-up of extracellular potassium in the brain has been proposed to help with epilepsy and migraine pathologies. This new study teaches us how to understand astrocytes'' build-up and to assist maintain a balance in excitation.

Researchers are currently testing existing medicines to see if they can manipulate the neuron-astrocyte interactions. Can one day, please help people learn faster or better? When a brain injury arises, Dulla asks.

The use of the new technology to make this discovery does not only provide new opportunities to think about astrocyte activity, but also provides new approaches for imaging activity through the brain. Before that, there was no way to, for example, photograph potassium activity in the brain, or study how potassium is involved in sleep, metabolism, or injury, and infection in the brain.

Researchers are acquiring the tools to study headaches, breathing, developmental disorders, and a wide variety of other neurological disorders.

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