Neurons, with their fingerlike projections, tend to look like the aftermath of a bunch of paint cans overturned. But, if you can convince yourself that the image above isn't the result of a careless paint job, you'll see that the neurons dyed either red or yellow are similar, with some differences.
As Amy Adams explains on the California Stem Cell Agency's (CIRM) blog, these particular splotches of "paint" are the product of researchers from the lab of Ricardo Dolmetsch, PhD.
The streaks in yellow are neurons grown from the skin of healthy humans that lack a particular genetic disorder. The neurons in red were generated from humans with the genetic disorder Phelan-McDermid syndrome (PMDS). This syndrome affects proteins found in organs such as the brain and can result in a variety of symptoms ranging from difficulty sleeping, to cognitive issues, to problems regulating body temperature. This genetic disorder is also associated with a greater risk of autism.
The Dolmetsch team found that the PMDS and PMDS-free neurons behaved differently - the red neurons from people with the genetic disorder were unable to transmit signals as well as the the yellow neurons without the genetic disorder. The team's findings were published in the journal Nature and are discussed in Adam's story on the CIRM blog.
Previously: More Stanford findings on the autistic brain, The Reason I Jump: Insights on autism and communication, Director of Stanford Autism Center responds to your questions on research and treatment, Light-switch seizure control? In a bright new study, researchers show how and New imaging analysis reveals distinct features of the autistic brain
Photo by Alex Shcheglovitov