On the way to reaching the affected part, when patients undergo surgery to treat brain tumours and epilepsy, surgeons often remove a small amount of other brain tissue. This is normally discarded as waste, but in a recent study it was collected and kept on ‘life support’ in the lab. Living tissue removed from the brains of 36 patients was maintained outside of the brain for several days. This allowed researchers to analyse the nerve cells within brain tissue and to create 3D reconstructions of the cells’ activity. Using microscopes, they studied the intricate shapes and branches of each cell. They also applied electricity to the cells to learn more about how nerves in a healthy brain communicate with each other by sending and receiving electrical signals. The findings are published in a database, which is publicly available and free to use.
Written by Deborah Oakley
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