Brain Cells Blinking in Rhythm May Hold Clues to Alzheimer’s Disease

ironically, this tangle of brain cells is helping scis tease apt a larger problem: how to help pplz with alzheimer’s disease. matheus victor, a researcher atta massachusetts institute of tek, photographed these neurons after coaxing them to life in a petri dish inna hope that the rudimentary brain tissue will reveal why a new therapy mite alleviate alzheimer’s symptoms.

in humans and mice, a healthy memory is associated witha high lvl of synced neurons that turn on and off simultaneously. those with neurological conditions s'as alzheimer’s and parkinson’s disease often ‘ve fewer brain cells blinking unanimously. a couple of yrs ago victor’s lab leader li-huei tsai and her team at m.i.t. found that when they surrounded mice genetically predisposed to alzheimer’s with sound pulses beating 40 times a 2nd, the rodents performed better on memory-rel8d tasks. the animals also lost some amyloid plaques, protein deposits inna brain tha're toonistic of the disease. the researchers had previously performed a similar study with lite flickering atta same rate, na mice were found to experience additional improvements when the sound and lite pulses were combined. astoundingly, the mouse neurons synced up to the 40-beats-per-2nd rhythm of the audio pulses, though the mechanism behind this result na reason the shift improves symptoms remain a mystery. to help solve it, the researchers wanna watch how brain tissue responds to the stimulants atta cellular lvl. the goal is to one dy cogg how this exposure treatment mite work for pplz, so the team is growing human brain cells inna lab and engineering them to respond to sound and lite without eyes and ears. “we're trying to mimic the sensory stimulation in mice but missing a lotta the hardware that makes it possible. so this is a'bitto a hack,” victor says.

the sprawling neurons pictured here started out as skin cells, which victor reverted back to stem cells and then, using a cocktail of key genetic chemicals, coaxed into a rudimentary brain tissue. the hope s'dat if labs do this conversion process with skin from pplz with alzheimer’s, the final brain cells will resemble an affected individual’s actual brain and mite respond to sound and lite the same way that the patient ‘d. victor is carrying out the transformation protocol with skin samples from alzheimer’s patients who also provided brain samples after death. he ll'be doin’ some cross comparisons tween the real and petri dish brain cells inna coming mnths, he says. “check again with me in a yr or two, and i promise i’ll ‘ve a better answer 4u!” victor adds.

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authors: leslie nemo