Mice get smarter with human brain cells
The human brain is an incredibly complex organ, one that scientists appear to learn more about every day. With so many different types of cells, different parts of the brain and unique functions assigned to the smallest aspects of neurological behavior, the brain can be, well, mind-boggling.
New research from the University of Rochester Medical Center may have overturned another stone. The scientists investigated a family of brain cells known as glial cells, which have been thought to act predominantly as "housekeeper" cells, However, in this study, the scientists transplanted human glial cells into the brains of mice and tracked the results. The mice with the human cells learned to connect a mild electric shock with a particular sound much more quickly than other mice and also made it through a maze twice as fast.
This led the researchers to conclude that glial cells actually play an important role in communication within the brain.
The scientists also found that subsets of glial cells – known as astrocytes – are larger and more complex in human brains than in other species. The evolution of these cells could be the reason that humans are capable of higher cognitive functions.