The adult rodent brain makes thousands of neurons [brain cells] every day, but only a few survive and reach maturity. Most die off and are cleared away keeping the brain healthy. A specific kind of proto-neuron – the precursor to a mature brain cell – known as a doublecortin-positive cell has now been found to play a key role in the clear-up procedure in mouse brain. Using a confocal microscope that captures snapshots of tissue at high resolution, scientists found that these proto-neurons (stained green and blue) swallow up tiny bubbles or liposomes of fluorescent liquid (red) that have been designed to mimic dead cells. So these proto-neurons, some of which mature into proper brain cells, can also act as phagocytes – cells that gobble up other cells – maintaining healthy regulation of growth in the mammalian brain.
Written by Daniel Cossins
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences (the new name for the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre) the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.