Brain

  • A closer look at brain organoid development

    Cerebral organoid flowchart.

    Heidelberg, 10 March 2017 - How close to reality are brain organoids, and which molecular mechanisms underlie the remarkable self-organizing capacities of tissues? Researchers already have succeeded in growing so-called “cerebral organoids” in a dish - clusters of cells that self-organize into small brain-like structures. Juergen Knoblich and colleagues have now further characterized these organoids and publish their results today in The EMBO Journal. They demonstrate that, like in the human brain, so-called forebrain organizing centers orchestrate developmental processes in the organoid, and that organoids recapitulate the timing of neuronal differentiation events found in human brains.

  • A docking site per calcium channel cluster

    Docking site. (c) by Walter Kaufmann and Ryuichi Shigemoto

    In our brain, information is passed from one neuron to the next at a structure called synapse. At a chemical synapse, a chemical is released from the signal-sending neuron or presynaptic neuron. This neurotransmitter then crosses the synaptic cleft to bind to receptors in the target neuron or postsynaptic neuron. An extensive molecular machinery is at work: for example, vesicles filled with neurotransmitter dock at “docking sites” in the pre-synaptic active zone before they fuse and release the neurotransmitter into the synapse.

  • Building better brains: A bioengineered upgrade for organoids

    Bioengineered organoids or so called enCORs are supported by a floating scaffold of PLGA-fiber microfilaments.

    Scientists for the first time combine organoids with bioengineering. Using small microfilaments, they show improved tissue architecture that mimics human brain development more accurately and allows more targeted studies of brain development and its malfunctions, as reported in the current issue of Nature Biotechnology. A few years ago, Jürgen Knoblich and his team at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (IMBA) have pioneered brain organoid technology. They developed a method for cultivating three-dimensional brain-like structures, so called cerebral organoids, in a dish. This discovery has tremendous potential as it could revolutionize drug discovery and disease research.

  • Connecting brain regions in a dish – A new organoid technology to detect malfunctions in the brain

    The novel organoid “fusion” technique is a new method to combine different brain tissues in a dish to observe complex interactions, such as cell migration and axon growth, between different developing brain regions.  Copyright: (c)IMBA

    Scientists at IMBA (Institute of Molecular Biotechnology) describe novel organoid technology combining various brain regions for investigation of epilepsy, and other neurological diseases, as reported in the current issue of Nature Methods. In 2013 researchers led by IMBA scientist Jürgen Knoblich flabbergasted the scientific community. Starting from human stem cells, researchers in his lab managed to grow living three dimensional models of basic units of human brain in a dish. These so called cerebral organoids present an unprecedented 3D cell culture model of human brain development, and have a tremendous potential for medical applications. Thanks to this discovery scientists can examine how networks of living human brain cells develop and function, and how they are affected by different drug compounds or genetic modifications.

  • Cortisol excess hits natural DNA process and mental health hard

    Camilla Glad. Photo: Rickard Dahlén

    High concentrations of the stress hormone, Cortisol, in the body affect important DNA processes and increase the risk of long-term psychological consequences. These relationships are evident in a study from the Sahlgrenska Academy on patients with Cushing’s Syndrome, but the findings also open the door for new treatment strategies for other stress-related conditions such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress. “If these results can be verified and repeated in other studies, they would have significance for future possibilities for treating stress-induced psychological consequences,” says Camilla Glad, postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Internal Medicine and Clinical Nutrition.

  • Fighting Forgetfulness with Nanotechnology

    The international research team is working on a treatment on dementia like Alzheimer, which leads to a death of neuronal cells. © shutterstock.com/Naeblys

    About 29 million people around the world are affected by the disease "Alzheimer". In an international collaboration, scientists of the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz together with teams from Italy, Great Britain, Belgium and the USA are now working together on an approach for a therapy. On the one hand, the goal is to understand the processes occurring in the brain that lead to the disease; on the other hand the development of a method for targeted drug delivery.

  • Growing brain cancer in a dish

    Neoplastic cerebral organoid with GFP-positive tumor regions (green), which demonstrates glioblastoma-like cellularity. IMBA

    For the first-time, researchers at IMBA- Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences – develop organoids, that mimic the onset of brain cancer. This method not only sheds light on the complex biology of human brain tumors but could also pave the way for new medical applications.

     

  • How enzymes communicate

    Electro-chemical coupling through protein super complexes: The calcium channel (Cav2) delivers calcium ions (Ca2+) that activate the enzyme NO synthase (NOS) for generation of the messenger NO. Source: Bernd Fakler

    Freiburg scientists explain the cell mechanism that transforms electrical signals into chemical ones. The enzymes nitric oxide (NO) synthase (NOS1) and protein kinase C (PKC) play an important role in a variety of signal transfer processes in neurons of the brain, as well as in many cell types of other organs. Together with Prof. Dr. Bernd Fakler at the Institute of Physiology at the University of Freiburg, the scientists Dr. Cristina Constantin and Dr. Catrin Müller have shown for the first time that enzymes can be activated under physiological conditions through sole electrical stimulation of the cell membrane. Protein super complexes that rapidly transform electrical signals at the cell membrane into chemical signal processes inside the cell emerge through direct structural interaction of both enzymes with voltage-gated calcium channels. The researchers have presented their work in the current issue of the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

  • How much information can we get from a spike?

    In many situations it is sufficient to consider the space of pairwise spike correlations (blue) to understand neural information, without the need to evaluate all possible spike combinations (gray). Tatjana Tchumatchenko / Max Planck Institute for Brain Research

    Neurons communicate via spikes but how they use those short pulses to code information is still an open question. Recent work at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research (Theory of Neural Dynamics Group) reveals that by determining temporal pairwise correlations one can get closer to answering this question.

    A key to understanding how the brain works is revealing the set of rules neurons use to communicate information between one another. The main means of neural communication are spikes, which are brief electrical pulses send out at some specific times.

  • Intelligent, Clever, and with Moral Behavior - University of Freiburg opened new robotics center

    The Integrated Robotics Center offers up to 65 workspaces in its offices and laboratories. Photo: Ingeborg Lehmann

    The University of Freiburg has now opened a new robotics center as part of its Faculty of Engineering. Developing intelligent robots that can identify tasks independently, learn from humans and their surroundings, and behave morally: With this goal in mind, the University of Freiburg opened the Integrated Robotics Center as part of its Faculty of Engineering on February 17, 2017. Researchers from the fields of medicine, philosophy, biology, computer science, microsystems engineering, and law will now be working together in the new center. “The research we are doing in this new building demonstrates the unique strength of our University: Bringing together experts from different disciplines to find solutions for the complex challenges of the future,” said Rector Prof. Dr. Hans-Jochen Schiewer.

  • Master of the Tree – Novel Form of Dendritic Inhibition Discovered

    The distal dendrites of pyramidal neurons (red) are controlled by a specialized set of interneurons (white) in layer 1 of neocortex. Artwork by Julia Kuhl (http://somedonkey.com/).

    A unique feature that sets neurons apart from all other cells are their beautiful, highly elaborate dendritic trees. These structures have evolved to receive the vast majority of information entering a neuron, which is integrated and processed by virtue of the dendrites’ geometry and active properties. Higher brain functions such as memory and attention all critically rely on dendritic computations, which are in turn controlled by inhibitory synaptic input. A team of scientists, led by Johannes J. Letzkus (MPI for Brain Research), now has identified a novel form of inhibition that dominantly controls dendritic function and strongly depends on previous experiences.

  • Mini brains from the petri dish

    When pipetting: Associate professor Dr. Philipp Koch, Dr. Julia Ladewig and Vira Iefremova. (c) Photo: Barbara Frommann/Uni Bonn

    A new method could push research into developmental brain disorders an important step forward. This is shown by a recent study at the University of Bonn in which the researchers investigated the development of a rare congenital brain defect. To do so, they converted skin cells from patients into so called induced pluripotent stem cells. From these ‘jack-of-all-trades’ cells, they generated brain organoids – small three-dimensional tissues which resemble the structure and organization of the developing human brain. The work has now been published in the journal Cell Reports.

  • Molecule flash mob

    High PIP2 concentrations on the cell membrane (left) prohibit SERT oligomerisation or dissociation so the level of oligomerisation is fixed. The PIP2 concentration in the endoplasmic reticulum is very low (right). The SERT oligomerisation therefore strives for equilibrium. TU Wien

    Neurotransmitter transporters are some of the most popular transport proteins in research as they play a major role in the processing of signals in the brain. A joint study by TU Wien and the Medical University of Vienna has now successfully demonstrated for the first time the structural impact of membrane lipids on medically relevant serotonin transporters

  • No sugar coating, but sweet nonetheless

    In the upper part of the image you can see an enlarged picture of the microprobe manufactured in Freiburg for stimulating and simultaneously gathering data. Below there is a cross section oft he coating made from the polymer PEDOT that has stored an anti-inflammatory medicine that can be released by applying negative voltage.  Source: Christian Böhler, Maria Asplund

    First long-term stabile brain implant developed based on an anti-inflammatory coating.

    Complex neurotechnological devices are required to directly select and influence brain waves inside the skull’s interior. Although it has become relatively easy to implement the devices, researchers are still faced with challenges when trying to keep them running properly in living organisms over time. But that could be changing now, thanks to a new method from Freiburg. A research team was able to create a microprobe that grows into the neural tissue without inflammation and with the help of a medicinal coating.

  • Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

    At the start of the project the N2B consortium met at Fraunhofer IGB in Stuttgart. Fraunhofer IGB

    Over the next few years, in a research project funded by the EU, an international consortium is developing a new technology for a better treatment of multiple sclerosis. The idea of the innovative “Nose2Brain” approach is to transport a special active substance directly through the nose into the central nervous system. For this purpose, the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB is working on an active ingredient formulation which is introduced direct into the Regio olfactoria by means of a special applicator and which can release the active ingredient there over a prolonged period of time.

  • Potential New Approach to the Treatment of Multiple Sclerosis

    EGLF7 retains immune cells in the perivascular space in MS lesions. photo/©: Catherine Larochelle, Timo Uphaus, Frauke Zipp

    A prospective new method of treating patients with multiple sclerosis has been proposed by researchers of the Mainz University Medical Center working in cooperation with researchers of the University of Montreal. In model trials and experiments employing human endothelial cells, they discovered that the EGFL7 protein hinders the migration of immune cells into the central nervous system by stabilizing the blood-brain barrier. These findings have recently been published in Nature Communications.

  • Prospect for more effective treatment of nerve pain

    Trigeminal neuralgia: A glimmer of hope for patients – thanks to a newly tested substance. Picture: Center of Dental Medicine; UZH

    Trigeminal neuralgia is characterized by sharp, lancinating pain in the teeth or facial area. The standard treatment for this chronic nerve pain can cause burdening side effects. A novel substance inhibits the pain effectively and is well tolerated, as documented by the initial results of an international study involving the Center of Dental Medicine at the University of Zurich. The sharp pain shoots to the face or teeth and seriously torments patients. Known as trigeminal neuralgia, it is one of the worst chronic nerve pains.

  • Walking is bound hand and foot: How long projecting neurons couple the movement of our limbs

    Netzwerk menschlicher Neuronen.

    We humans walk with our feet. This is true, but not entirely. Walking, as part of locomotion, is a coordinated whole-body movement that involves both the arms and legs. Researchers at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel and the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research have identified different subpopulations of neurons in the spinal cord with long projections. Published in Neuron, the results show that these neurons coordinate movement of arms and legs and ensure a stable body posture during locomotion.

  • Working the Switches for Axon Branching

    In neuronal cells, the protein SSNA1 (pink) accumulates at branching sites in axons (top). The SSNA1 fibrils attach to the microtubules (green) and trigger branching (bottom). © Naoko Mizuno, MPI of Biochemistry

    Our brain is a complex network with innumerable connections between cells. Neuronal cells have long thin extensions, so-called axons, which are branched to increase the number of interactions. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have collaborated with researchers from Portugal and France to study cellular branching processes. They demonstrated a novel mechanism that induces branching of microtubules, an intracellular support system. The newly discovered dynamics of microtubules has a key role in neuronal development. The results were recently published in the journal Nature Cell Biology.