November 15, 2015

Neurons Reprogrammed

Harvard Building on earlier work in which they disproved neurobiology dogma by “reprogramming” neurons — turning one form of neuron into another — in the brains of living animals, Harvard Stem Cell Institute researchers have now shown that the networks of communication among reprogrammed neurons and their neighbors can also be changed, or “rewired.” By B. D. Colen

'The finding, by Paola Arlotta, a professor of stem cell and regenerative biology, in close collaboration with Takao Hensch, a professor of molecular and cellular biology, has implications for both a basic understanding of how neurons choose their synaptic partners when circuits wire during early development, and for developing strategies to change defective communication in psychiatric and neurodevelopmental diseases, such as schizophrenia and autism.

'“What we’ve shown here is that not only neurons can be dramatically changed from one type into another from within the brain,” said Arlotta, who is also an associate member of the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Disease at the Broad Institute of Harvard and M.I.T., but also that “neighboring neurons recognize the reprogrammed cells as different and adapt by changing how they communicate with them.”

'The work is published in the latest edition of the journal Neuron.'

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