Turns out, if we place some of our own brain cells into a mouse’s, they become smarter.
The future of extraordinaryly intelligent rodents is in the near future, and the human race is in danger! Superior Rodents vs. Humans. WHO WILL REIGN SUPREME?
But actually, researchers at University of Rochester Medical Center and UCLA have placed human glial progenitors into the brains of newborn mice and later observed them when they reached adulthood. (Glial cells are cells in the brain that provide nutrients and support to neurons). Some of these cells remained premature, but some grew into structures that resembled human astrocytes. These cells have many projections that come into contact with other brain cells and blood vessels, much more so than those found in mice. The development of these astrocytes caused our internal signals to be relayed faster by three times! This demonstrated an improved connection between the neurons and the brain, and thus help improve significantly learning and memory capabilities in the mouse. For example, the mice with human cells were able to find their way through a maze in half the amount of time than normal mice, and they were far better at recognizing familiar objects in a shorter amount of time.
Now you may be wondering, why does this happen? Why do human brain cells allow for improved mental functions? It’s because human astrocytes secrete more tumor necrosis factor alpha, a protein that mice do not produce as much of. This increases the number of receptors for the neurotransmitter glutamate in the membranes of mice neurons, causing the signal between the neurons to be quicker and more efficient.
Why do we care if these mice got smarter? It’s not so much as to show that we can make genius rodents, but that we can create a more human like body system into an experiment organism. This work will potentially lead to new ways of investigation psychiatric disorders, allow for a better and new way of testing for treatments, and the ability to conduct brain evolution studies. The brain is a complicated organ, and this is a large step towards understand and treating the problems that arise. Maybe it IS all up in yo’ mind.