February 13, 2015
At upper left, a healthy astrocyte (a supportive brain cell) is shown in blue between green sheaths of myelin, which are produced by oligodendrocytes, the tentacled objects also seen in green.In individuals suffering from Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, JC viruses (red particles) first infect the astrocyte (upper right) and mutate, eventually causing the astrocyte to explode (bottom image). The viruses then infect the oligodendrocytes.
When University researchers Steven Goldman and Maiken Nedergaard created a mouse model whose brains consisted of both animal neurons and human glia cells, their study initially focused on findings that the human cells essentially made the mice smarter.
However, they also created a powerful new platform for researchers to study human glial cells in experimental animals. And that is providing new insights into Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML).
The study, out today in the journal Cell Stem Cell, suggests that the evolution of a subset of glia called astrocytes – which are larger and more complex in humans than other species – may have been one of the key events that led to the higher cognitive functions that distinguish us from other species.
For more information please visit the URMC Newsroom article.
- A Distinct Population of Microglia Supports Adult Neurogenesis in the Subventricular Zone.J Neurosci. 35, 11848-61. (2015 Aug 26).
- Modeling cognition and disease using human glial chimeric mice.Glia. 63, 1483-93. (2015 Aug 01).
- Disease specific therapies in leukodystrophies and leukoencephalopathies.Mol Genet Metab. 114, 527-36. (2015 Apr 01).