Brandi Klingerman | September 23, 2019
In order for the central nervous system to communicate to the rest of the body, the brain and spinal cord house nerves that send and receive signals via neurons or nerve cells. This communication can take place only because structures known as synapses allow this process to happen.
When nerve cells come close enough together to form a synapse, they allow synaptic vesicles to release a chemical substance that transfers the communication signal to the next cell. However, a new study from the University of Notre Dame has shown that these synaptic vesicles are used much earlier, before synapses occur, and that they are also used in the formation of the spinal cord during early development.
“Our research team at Notre Dame wanted to explore what role synaptic vesicles, which are a well-understood piece of the nervous system communication puzzle, could have in early development, if any,” said Cody Smith, the Elizabeth and Michael Gallagher Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences and author of the study. “What Evan Nichols, the lead author, found is that long before the central nervous system is complete and neuronal communication is taking place, synaptic vesicles are helping nerve fibers enter the spinal cord and aiding proper development.”
The study was published in Current Biology, with support from the Freimann Life Science Center. Nichols, a 2019 alumnus, completed the study in the Smith Lab as an undergraduate student at Notre Dame and is now a graduate student at Stanford University.
Read more here.