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article imageNew study improves our understanding of brain function

By Tim Sandle     Nov 2, 2019 in Science
Researchers are one-step closer to understanding the brain and its function, following some pioneering experiments. This new insight could help those affected by strokes.
The new study comes from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). Here scientists have discovered how lactate is an essential requirement for memory formation and learning. Knowing this could be the key for achieving improved learning and memory function.
The study was led by Dr. Corrado Calì, who is an expert in brain imaging at KAUST. The work was supported by the Blue Brain Project (BBP), which is based in Switzerland. The aim of BBP is to build biologically detailed, digital reconstructions and simulations of the rodent brain and, ultimately the human brain.
Working to obtain insights for the Human Brain Project, Dr Calì managed to construct three-dimensional models of astrocytes, which are complex star-shaped glial cells of the central nervous system. This model was necessary in order to achieve the necessary spatial accuracy to show the metabolic coupling between neurons and glial cells.
The method used to achieve the three-dimensional imaging is called serial block-face electron microscopy. This renders an image stack, which is a collection of images that creates a volumetric image of a section of tissue that contains astrocytes.
The following video describes the method further:
With astrocytes the role they play in brain function is not fully understood. However, there is sufficient data to suggest that designing medications to help these cells to better function could aid the brain in recovering after a stroke or Alzheimer’s Disease
Understanding how these cells works is necessary in order to reveal how it is structured and in turn this is necessary so that different medications can be assessed. The researchers are especially keen to understand how the different compartments of astrocytes behave, and whether differences here hold the key for future treatments.
This includes the use of lactate injections within 30 minutes from a stroke to determine if this can significantly reduce the infarcted (areas of tissue death) brain areas.
The research was supported by the European Human Brain Project consortium framework. The study has been published in the journal Science Direct. The research paper is titled “3D cellular reconstruction of cortical glia and parenchymal morphometric analysis from Serial Block-Face Electron Microscopy of juvenile rat.”
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