Process of working of brain could be better understood with a new study on mice, which could open doors in studying epilepsy, Alzheimer's and other diseases.
University of Utah scientists have developed a genetically engineered line of mice, who carry a protein marker, which changes in degree of fluorescence in response to different calcium levels. This would allow many cell types, including cells called astrocytes and microglia, to be studied in a new way.
The work is the result of a three-year study which involved multiple labs connected with The Brain Institute at the University of Utah.
With the new mouse line, scientists could use a laser-based fluorescence microscope to study the calcium indicator in the glial cells of the living mouse, either when the mouse is anesthetized or awake. Calcium is studied because it is an important signaling molecule in the body and it can reveal how well the brain is functioning.
Using this method, the scientists were essentially creating a window into the working brain to study the interactions between neurons, astrocytes and microglia.
The ability to track calcium changes in microglial cells would also open up the possibility of studying inflammatory diseases of the brain. Every neurological disease, including Multiple Sclerosis and Alzheimer's, appeared to include components of inflammation, said the scientists.
The research is published in world-leading neuroscience journal, Neuron.