A new way of communicating between different types of brain cells has been identified in mice.
The discovery, by researchers at the University of Lausanne (UNIL) and the Wyss Center, both Switzerland, promises insights into diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Traditionally, brain cells are classified in two types: neurons, which rapidly talk to each other using chemical messengers called neurotransmitters, and glia, which support them.
But now, the team has identified a new hybrid brain cell in mice (‘glutamatergic astrocytes’) that can communicate very quickly with other cells, just like neurons.
The genetic profile of these mouse cells is also found in the human brain, and their relevance to movement and memory should provide new strategies into the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases – see the article in Nature.
Lead author Andrea Volterra, at UNIL, said in New Scientist: “Our next studies will explore the potential protective role of this type of cell against memory impairment in Alzheimer’s disease, as well as its role in other regions and pathologies than those explored here.”