Strange ‘hybrid’ brain cells hidden in our heads discovered

(ORDO NEWS) — An international team of scientists has made a groundbreaking discovery in the field of neuroscience. They isolated a new type of brain cell known as glutamatergic astrocytes, which have properties of both neurons and astrocytes. These unique hybrid cells play an active role in neurological functions while providing support to surrounding nerve tissues.

For many years, it was believed that astrocytes were passive cells that simply protected neurons. Recently, however, evidence has emerged that these cells may promote neuronal activity by releasing glutamate, the brain’s main neurotransmitter. The new study goes one step further by examining the role of astrocytes in the living, healthy brain.

Using single-cell RNA sequencing, the researchers identified nine distinct clusters of astrocytes in the hippocampus of the mouse brain. One of them, known as cluster #7, stood out for its localization to specific areas of the hippocampus and its ability to package glutamate for release.

Using glutamate imaging in living mice, the scientists discovered that these specialized cells release glutamate at precise points, reminiscent of synapses, where neurons communicate with each other. This suggests that glutamatergic astrocytes modulate neuronal activity and control the level of communication and excitation between neurons.

To further understand the role of these hybrid cells, the researchers disrupted their function in mice, resulting in memory impairment. This finding suggests that glutamatergic astrocytes play a critical role in memory functioning.

The discovery of this atypical subpopulation of specialized astrocytes opens up broad research prospects. The team plans to study the role of these cells in brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, in which memory is impaired. By understanding their functions and potential therapeutic targets, scientists hope to develop new treatments for these debilitating diseases.

Research published in the journal Nature, provides valuable insight into the complex roles of astrocytes in the central nervous system and highlights the importance of these newly discovered glutamatergic astrocytes in brain physiology and disease.


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