Innovative Method Identifies Rare Brain Cell Types for First Time

Illustration of brain cell types (Credit: Jun Cao).

A single drop of rain is undetectable in the ocean. It couldn’t even be found in a bucket of salty water. But if a single container outfitted with extraordinarily precise sensors could scoop up the entire ocean, it would suddenly be possible to locate that one tiny drop. Tracking rare cell types in the brain has proved equally elusive. And yet alterations in some of these cells may be associated with a variety of diseases, including Alzheimer’s. Being able to find and study such rare cells could potentially open up a new world of brain analysis and disease intervention. As described in a new paper published November 30, 2023 in Nature Genetics, Rockefeller geneticist Junyue Cao, PhD, and his colleagues have developed a low-cost, high-throughput technique for finding these secretive cells by scanning an entire mouse brain at once—a digital bucket that captured 1.5 million cells and can hold many more. The open-access article is titled “A Global View of Aging and Alzheimer’s Pathogenesis-Associated Cell Population Dynamics and Molecular Signatures in Human and Mouse Brains.”

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