New insight into how the brain develops

Humankind has always had a fascination with the brain - how it develops, how it works and how things can go wrong. By tracking a neuron's path through the brain, neuroscientists with the EU-funded MOMECODE project have given us new insight into how the brain develops.

Countries
Countries
  Algeria
  Argentina
  Australia
  Austria
  Bangladesh
  Belarus
  Belgium
  Benin
  Bolivia
  Bosnia and Herzegovina
  Brazil
  Bulgaria
  Burkina Faso
  Cambodia
  Cameroon
  Canada
  Cape Verde
  Chile
  China
  Colombia
  Costa Rica
  Croatia
  Cyprus
  Czechia
  Denmark
  Ecuador
  Egypt
  Estonia
  Ethiopia
  Faroe Islands
  Finland
  France
  French Polynesia
  Georgia

Countries
Countries
  Algeria
  Argentina
  Australia
  Austria
  Bangladesh
  Belarus
  Belgium
  Benin
  Bolivia
  Bosnia and Herzegovina
  Brazil
  Bulgaria
  Burkina Faso
  Cambodia
  Cameroon
  Canada
  Cape Verde
  Chile
  China
  Colombia
  Costa Rica
  Croatia
  Cyprus
  Czechia
  Denmark
  Ecuador
  Egypt
  Estonia
  Ethiopia
  Faroe Islands
  Finland
  France
  French Polynesia
  Georgia


  Infocentre

Published: 6 December 2018  
Related theme(s) and subtheme(s)
Health & life sciencesMedical research  |  Neuroscience
Human resources & mobilityMarie Curie Actions
Innovation
Research policySeventh Framework Programme
Countries involved in the project described in the article
Australia
Add to PDF "basket"

New insight into how the brain develops

Image

© #158183072 | Author: denisismagilov, 2018 fotolia.com

The human brain is comprised of billions of different types of cells. These cells are then organised into sophisticated networks, each of which determines a specific function of the brain. But how do the neurons, or nerve cells that form these networks, find the right network? And what happens when they don’t?

To find out, the EU-funded MOMECODE project tracked the generation and migration of neurons in the developing cerebral cortex – the largest part of the brain responsible for much of our thoughts and actions. Using a powerful genetic methodology called MADM (Mosaic Analysis with Double Markers) that provides an unprecedented resolution of a single cell, MOMECODE researchers were able to precisely determine how neural stem cells progressively build up the cerebral.

“For the first time, we quantitatively mapped the output of neural stem cells during the brain’s development,” says MOMECODE researcher Simon Hippenmeyer. “What we discovered was that the proliferation behaviour of neural stem cells is precisely regulated.”

Stem cells and a healthy brain

According to Hippenmeyer, stem cells are characterised by their capacity to differentiate into multiple cell types. During embryonic development, neural stem cells produce the neurons and glia (a connecting tissue) that form the foundation of our nervous system. By tracking the behaviour of these neural stem cells, MOMECODE researchers were able to predict their neuron and glia cell output. “This adds to our understanding of the important role that stem cells play in generating a brain of the correct size,” says Hippenmeyer.

Such insight is key to understanding diseases associated with brain malformation, such as microcephaly (a small brain) and macrocephaly (an oversized brain). “Diseases associated with defects in neural stem cells or the brain’s development put a huge burden on society,” adds Hippenmeyer. “Although still far in the future, we are convinced that the findings emerging from our basic scientific approach will contribute, in one way or the other way, to how we eventually diagnose, prevent and perhaps even treat these diseases.”

Another important finding addresses the ‘nature versus nurture’ question of our brain’s development. In other words, how do genes and other hereditary factors control brain development in a tight interplay with environmental variables? By using sophisticated genetic approaches, MOMECODE researchers looked at both how intrinsic cellular programmes (nature) and the surrounding stem cell niche (nurture) impact neuron output and glia production during the brain’s development. “Unexpectedly, we found a very high degree of environmental factors impacting overall development, which may be relevant to our understanding of brain malformation and neurodevelopmental diseases,” says Hippenmeyer.

More research ahead

With the original research being done on mice, Hippenmeyer and his team are now working to translate their findings to human cells – laying the groundwork for an investigation into the underlying basis of neurodevelopmental disorders.

“During the project, I was in the unique position to contribute to the education of the next generation of molecular life scientists, which I consider to be a privilege and which I greatly appreciate,” says Hippenmeyer.

Rigorously building on the MOMECODE framework, Hippenmeyer and has his team have inaugurated a series of innovative functional genetic studies aimed at determining the underlying molecular and cellular mechanisms of the brain’s development. “We anticipate that these lines of research will contribute to our general understanding of the fundamental genetic mechanisms that control the brain’s development in both health and disease,” he adds.

Project details

  • Project acronym: MOMECODE
  • Participants: Austria (Coordinator)
  • Project N°: 618444
  • Total costs: € 100 000
  • EU contribution: € 100 000
  • Duration: September 2013 to August 2017

See also

 

Convert article(s) to PDF

No article selected


loading


Search articles

Notes:
To restrict search results to articles in the Information Centre, i.e. this site, use this search box rather than the one at the top of the page.

After searching, you can expand the results to include the whole Research and Innovation web site, or another section of it, or all Europa, afterwards without searching again.

Please note that new content may take a few days to be indexed by the search engine and therefore to appear in the results.

Print Version
Share this article
See also
Project details