A new study reveals the architecture of ‘second brain’

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second brain
Scientists have made an important step in understanding the organization of nerve cells that could give insight into the origin of common gastrointestinal diseases, including irritable bowel syndrome and chronic constipation.
The survey of body’s “second brain” offered scientists a better understanding of the system’s complex architecture, the arrangement of more than half a billion nerve cells spread throughout the human gut.
The engineered target cells in mouse models to glow fluorescent, allows tracking nerve cells as they populated the gut during mouse development.
Vassilis Pachnis, Group Leader at the Francis Crick Institute, said, the gut wall is home to many types of nerve cells which appear to be distributed randomly. Despite this chaos, the neural networks of the gut are responsible for well organised and stereotypic functions such as production of stomach acid, movement of food along the gut, communication with immune cells and bacteria, and relay of information to the brain.
During development, the progenitor cells divide to produce copies of them, which can then generate many other types of cells. They found some progenitor cells produce only nerve cells, while other produces only glia, a type of nerve-supporting cell. Other progenitors produce both nerve and glia cells.
“We uncovered a set of rules that control the organisation of the ‘second brain’ not just along a single gut layer but across the 3-D space of the gut wall,” says Reena Lasrado, researcher in Vassilis’s lab at the Crick.
The team explored whether this intricate structure of the enteric nervous system also contributes to nerve cell activity in the gut. Vassilis says, a subtle electrical stimulation to the enteric nervous system showed that nerve cells generated by the same parent cell responded in synchrony. This suggests that developmental relationships between cells of the enteric nervous system of mammals are fundamental for the neural regulation of gut function.
More information: [Science]
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