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Aug 25, 2022

Discovery of the cell fate switch from neurons to astrocytes in the developing brain

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, neuroscience

During mammalian brain development, neural precursor cells first generate neurons and later astrocytes. This cell fate change is a key process generating proper numbers of neurons and astrocytes. Here we discovered that FGF regulates the cell fate switch from neurons to astrocytes in the developing cerebral cortex using mice. FGF is a critical extracellular regulator of the cell fate switch, necessary and sufficient, in the mammalian cerebral cortex.

Neurons and astrocytes are prominent cell types in the . Neurons are the primary information processing cells in the , whereas astrocytes support and modulate their functions. For sound functioning of the brain, it is crucial that proper numbers of neurons and astrocytes are generated during fetal brain development. The brain could not function correctly if only neurons or astrocytes were generated.

During fetal brain development, both neurons and astrocytes are generated from , which give rise to almost all cells in the cerebral cortex (Figure 1). One of the characteristics of this developmental process is that neural stem cells first generate neurons and, after that, start generating astrocytes (Figure 1). The “switch” to change the cell differentiation fate of neural stem cells from neurons to astrocytes has attracted much attention, since the cell fate switch is key to the generation of proper numbers of neurons and astrocytes. However, it remained largely unknown.

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