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Brain’s Tiniest Blood Vessels Trigger Spinal Motor Neurons to Develop
A new study has revealed that the human brain’s tiniest blood vessels can activate genes known to trigger spinal motor neurons, prompting the neurons to grow during early development. The findings could provide insights into how amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and other neurodegenerative disorders may develop.
To make the discovery, investigators re-created living tissues of the blood vessels and the spinal motor neurons—which control muscles—outside the body to show how they interact.
“Until now, people thought these blood vessels just delivered nutrients and oxygen, removed waste and adjusted blood flow. We showed that beyond plumbing, they are genetically communicating with the neurons,” said Samuel Sances, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute. He is the first author of the study, published in the journal Stem Cell Reports.
When a human embryo is about 4 weeks old, Sances explained, new blood vessels begin to surround a primitive column of cells that eventually will become the spinal cord. Driven by developmental genes, some of these cells turn into spinal motor neurons. The study showed the cells of the brain’s smallest blood vessels, known as capillaries, are capable of activating these genes, which can spur spinal motor neurons to grow and mature.
Besides providing insights into human biology, the study opened a new pathway to unraveling the mysteries of disorders such as ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, Sances said. ALS is a progressive, fatal disorder that kills motor neurons. There is no known cure. More than 6,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with the disorder each year, according to the ALS Association.
What may go wrong in the spinal neurons that causes the motor neurons to die?“ Sances asked. “If we can model an individual ALS patient’s tissues, we may be able to answer that question and one day rescue ALS patients’ neurons through new therapies.”
The study’s findings were made possible by a unique pairing of stem cell science with Organs-on-Chips technology, which re-creates human biology in microengineered environments.
Cedars-Sinai investigators first took samples of skin cells from adults and genetically reprogramed them into induced pluripotent stem cells, which can create any type of cell—in this case, spinal motor neurons and the lining of the brain’s capillaries. The team placed these cells in the tiny channels of Organ-Chips, which are made of flexible polymer and are about the size of AA batteries. In the chips, nurtured by special fluids, the cells of the two different tissues thrived and interacted with each other.
“This study told us something important about how our neurons develop,” said Clive Svendsen, PhD, professor of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, director of the Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute and senior author of the study. As a next step, he added, investigators are developing plans to use chip technology to compare the vessel-neuron interactions in ALS patients against those of individuals without ALS.
The research is part of the new Patient-on-a-Chip program, a collaboration between Cedars-Sinai and Emulate Inc. in Boston to help predict which disease treatments would be most effective based on a patient’s genetic makeup and disease variant. Emulate produces the Organ-Chips used in the program. Geraldine A. Hamilton, PhD, Emulate’s president and chief scientific officer, is a co-author of the spinal motor neuron study.
In February, investigators from the two organizations announced they had used an Intestine-Chip to model a human intestinal lining.
The Patient-on-a-Chip program is an important initiative of Cedars-Sinai Precision Health, whose goal is to drive the development of the newest technology and best research, coupled with the finest clinical practice, to rapidly enable a new era of personalized health.
The art of Jae Cheol Park via
The Multiverse, Cinta Vidal (because)
Photography by photo_taku
Tony Ray-Jones © Royal Photographic Society/ National Media Museum
Does anything in this photograph look familiar? Help us find out where it was taken in 1967.
Stearman 81 http://bit.ly/2MqST3N
European cheese map.
I do quite like cheese……
Summer Landscape, Krumau, Egon Schiele
Blue Fox, Franz Marc
Never try to reach your Eden.
*Amelia Anne Zuckermann
Auguste Rodin, The Danaid, 1889,
Marble, Rodin Museum, Paris
“Anybody can look at a pretty girl and see a pretty girl. An artist can look at a pretty girl and see the old woman she will become. A better artist can look at an old woman and see the pretty girl that she used to be. But a great artist-a master-and that is what Auguste Rodin was-can look at an old woman, portray her exactly as she is…and force the viewer to see the pretty girl she used to be…and more than that, he can make anyone with the sensitivity of an armadillo, or even you, see that this lovely young girl is still alive, not old and ugly at all, but simply prisoned inside her ruined body. He can make you feel the quiet, endless tragedy that there was never a girl born who ever grew older than eighteen in her heart…no matter what the merciless hours have done to her. Look at her, Ben. Growing old doesn’t matter to you and me; we were never meant to be admired-but it does to them.”
― Robert A. Heinlein
Ghosts of Kyoto - illustration
(8B graphite pencil + watercolor)
Here is our process for making an illustration, from the first draft to the final colors. We use a lightpad and a 8B graphite pencil to trace it on a sheet of watercolor paper. We have to be careful not to rub our hands on the lines because it would spread the graphite and 8B is difficult to erase. The colors are made with watercolors. Because of its theme, this illustration is darker than usual so it was an interesting exercise.
It was commissioned by the pop culture mook Carbone to illustrate an article about haunted places in Kyoto.
More info & order the book (French only):