Scientists discover new brain cell types
Researchers have discovered previously unknown cell types while producing an in depth map of cortical cell types and the active genes they harbor.
Scientists at Karolinska Instituted carried out the research with a process known as single cell sequencing, the results of which were published in the journal Science in February.
The new cell types were found as the team studied some three thousand cells from the cerebral cortex in mice.
The team identified 47 different kinds of cell, including blood vessel cells, specialized neurons and glial cells, and the unknown cell types including a nerve cell in the surface of the cortical layer, and six different types of oligodendrocyte.
After the scientists discovered which of the 20,000 genes were active in each cell, they sorted the cells into virtual piles.
“If you compare the brain to a fruit salad, you could say that previous methods were like running the fruit through a blender and seeing what color juice you got from different parts of the brain,” said Sten Linnarsson, senior researcher at the Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics.
The fact that all living organisms are compromised of cells was discovered some 200 years ago by German scientists.
“But in recent years we’ve developed much more sensitive methods of analysis that allow us to see which genes are active in individual cells. This is like taking pieces of the fruit salad, examining them one by one and then sorting them into piles to see how many different kinds of fruit it contains, what they’re made up of and how they interrelate,” Linnarsson added.
“Above all, we have created a much more detailed map of the cells of the brain that describes each cell type in detail and shows which genes are active in it. This gives science a new tool for studying these cell types in disease models and helps us to understand better how brain cell respond to disease and injury,” said study co-leader Jens Hjerling-Leffler.