Welcome to Biomed Bites, a weekly feature that introduces readers to some of Stanford’s most innovative researchers.
When one neuron wants to communicate with another neuron, it doesn’t talk, make gestures, or perform an interpretive dance. Instead, it ejects chemical information. That information travels to the next neuron, which sucks it up, receiving the message.
And this isn’t a slow, hmm, maybe-I-should-send-this-out-sometime-today kind of message.
“The process of effusion of synaptic vesicles is very fast,” says Axel Brunger, PhD, in the video above. “It occurs on the order of a millisecond. It’s one of the fastest known biological processes, so we’re trying to understand this process at a molecular level and how it actually works is a big mystery at the moment.”
Brunger, the chair of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology, and his team use a variety of optical imaging methods and high-resolution structural methods to examine the transmission of synaptic vesicles:
We’re now using our [in vitro] system to study the effect of a number of factors, including factors involved in a number of diseases.
What we are hoping from these studies is to obtain a better understanding of how these factors and then secondly and importantly, to develop new strategies or therapeutics to combat these diseases.
Learn more about Stanford Medicine’s Biomedical Innovation Initiative and about other faculty leaders who are driving biomedical innovation here.
Previously: New insights into how the brain stays bright, Revealed: The likely role of Parkinson’s protein in the healthy brain and Examining the potential of creating new synapses in old or damaged brains