A scientist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem says that he has observed the 'real time' generation of neurones in a mammal's brain, the first ever claim of such kind in the world.
Dr. Adi Mizrahi of the Department of Neurobiology, Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences, used mouse models to study how neurones develop from an undifferentiated cellular sphere into a rich and complex cell.
The new findings are significant for the future of brain research because "the structural and functional complexity of nerve cells remains one of the biggest mysteries of neuroscience, and we now have a model to study this complexity directly," Nature magazine quoted him as saying.
Dr. Mizrahi developed an experimental model to study development of neural dendrites in vivo by using special microscopic imaging techniques, combined with virus gene technology.
The dendrites are the string-like extensions of the neurone that spread out to reach other neurones, and serve as the points of communication between them.
The model employed in the research was the new-born neurone population which develops into the olfactory bulb of adult mice, providing them with a sense of smell. The development and maintenance of such neurones in this area was assessed by time-lapse imaging over several days at different stages of development.
Dr. Mizrahi revealed that dendritic formation was highly dynamic. He further said that once incorporated into the network, the adult-born neurones also remained dynamic and capable of continuous change.
His method provides a mechanism for observing how neurones develop into a rich and complex cell, and how already developed neurones are maintained in the highly active and changing environment of the brain.
Dr. Mizrahi notes that the research may some day lead to significant breakthroughs in treatment of neural disorders, for "there are only a few small areas in the brain which are capable of neurogenesis, and they hide secrets we want to reveal."