You are viewing AANS Neurosurgeon Volume 26, Number 2, 2017. View our current issue, Volume 26, Number 4, 2017

AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 2, 2017

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Brain Guides Body Much Sooner Than Previously Believed

Scientists demonstrate, and then rescue, muscle and nerve defects caused by removing brains of day-old frog embryos; reveal earliest known example of brain-body interface

The brain plays an active and essential role much earlier than previously thought, according to new research from Tufts University scientists which shows that long before movement or other behaviors occur, the brain of an embryonic frog influences muscle and nerve development and protects the embryo from agents that cause developmental defects. Remarkably, the brain performs these functions while it is itself still developing, marking the earliest known events of the brain-body interface. In addition to identifying these essential instructive functions for the first time, the Tufts researchers successfully rescued defects caused by lack of a brain by using widely available, human-approved drugs.

The discoveries could expand understanding of human cognition and neuroplasticity and lead to better ways to address birth defects, treat injuries and regenerate or bioengineer complex organs. Frogs are a widely used model in biomedical research because they share many basic biological mechanisms and processes with humans.

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