Axon moves past role as a nerve cell’s foot soldier

Friday, February 15, 2019 - 12:50 in Biology & Nature

As cells go, neurons are pretty weird. Most other cells come in spherical blob-like shapes with a central nucleus. Neurons come in a variety of wild and spiky forms, with branching projections sprouting out of their tiny bodies in all directions. Unlike their blobby brethren, neurons have distinct regions. There’s the cell body, home to the nucleus. Then come the axons and dendrites, the signal-carrying and signal-receiving parts of the neuron that send long, spindly arms to form connections, called synapses, with other neurons. Now research led by investigators at Harvard’s Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology, a joint department between Harvard Medical School and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, suggests that parts of the neuron are far more complex than once thought. The team’s findings, described Jan. 17 in Nature, add yet another twist in the ever-evolving understanding of the nerve cells that make up our brains. During brain development, a neuron’s...

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