In a study published in the scientific journal temper natureResearchers at New York University report the discovery of factors responsible for the development of brain cells in the visual system and even the order in which neurons develop.
In practice, these neurons differ in their shape, function and connection with other neurons to form neural networks. Previously, scientists had already identified many types of neurons, but how this complexity arises during brain development is still a question that must be discovered little by little by means of research.
In this work, specifically, the researchers analyzed the brains of Drosophila (fruit fly) by sequencing the mRNA of more than 50,000 cells. With a focused look at neural stem cells, the team identified the full set of molecules responsible for regulating the expression of specific genes in each temporal pattern (the mechanism by which stem cells produce neurons over time).
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Previous research had already identified these molecules in the visual system, but the study in question had access to an appropriate enough number of molecules to be able to identify all types of neurons in this region of the brain, as well as the genetic interactions that allow this temporal pattern to progress.
The team even studied the first steps in the process of maturation of stem cells into neurons, and found that the differentiation process between flying neurons and human neurons was remarkably similar. Thus, the paper’s conclusion is that understanding the mechanisms of neuronal development in flies can shed light on the equivalent process in humans.
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