Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Rough Passage
19 November 2014

Rough Passage

Bumpy or slippery roads can disrupt traffic and it’s the same for impulses travelling through your brain. Recent research has shown that nerve cells, or neurons, stop working properly if the tissue around them is too rough or smooth. This is because vital communication channels with astrocytes, another type of brain cell, are disrupted. Scientists tested their theory by creating synthetic surfaces of varying roughness – the carpet-like texture shown in this highly magnified, false-coloured picture was found to be just right for the neuron attached to it. They also studied brain tissue samples from Alzheimer’s disease sufferers and discovered that surface roughness was abnormal in regions of amyloid plaque build-up, which are responsible for neuron death. These research findings provide new targets for drug development to treat brain diseases and insights for engineering neural biomaterials.

Written by Mick Warwicker

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