Ever wondered what your brain is made of? The easiest place to start looking for an answer is in the brain cells. This evening will be dedicated to the strange and wonderful cells that make up the nervous system.
Prof Barnett is a neuroscientist who specialises in growing brain cells in culture. She is particularly interested in the fatty "coat" on neurons, known as myelin, and the cells that make it: glia. To study the ways in which myelin is implicated in diseases like Multiple Sclerosis, in brain scarring or in spinal cord injury, she has developed models mimicking disease and injury, inside cell culture dishes. She will describe these cells and show just how much we can learn about the brain from cell culture.
An accident: you stepped on a bottle and damaged a nerve. What happens next? Most likely, the cut is stitched by a surgeon so that the nerve can repair itself. However, this repair is slow and the result is not always perfect. Nerve cells, stretching out from the spine to the tips of your toes, need some help for effective repair. Dr
Riehle leads a group that develops an array of new therapies - tiny tubes to guide repair; helper cells; special cell friendly paint; a ‘sonic screwdriver’,electricity to ‘zap’ cells into action; and drugs and food supplements -to give nerves the boost they need.
The brain is an amazing biological machine, which is
extremely complex in its organisation. We have only
scratched the surface in understanding how it works
when it is healthy and what changes during injury
and disease. Researchers can now make simple
models of brain disorders that fit onto a chip to help
improve this understanding. By reducing the
complexity we have a better chance of working out
what happens to brain cells during disease. These
new methods of studying brain disorders should help
researchers discover what goes wrong and may lead
to new treatments to tackle these conditions.
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