Of Mice and Brains

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.





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8 Responses to Of Mice and Brains

  1. Pingback: Oskar

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  4. Fascinating! Developments in neuroscience might turn out to be the most tantalizing of our generation…

  5. Anurag Sen says:

    I followed the link to this blog because there was a picture of Ratata.

    This seems like chimera experimentation. I don’t really understand why people want to make hybrid animals but to each his own. You can learn just as much about the brain by doing other experiments. It seems interesting how the mice get smarter but like your intro, it does the raise the question, how smart can they get? If they become too smart for their own good, they may destroy the balance in their ecosystem.

  6. gwo5036 says:

    This seems incredibly interesting and a good first step for our soceity to truly understand our brain. The more research done, the more I am impressed on how complex our brain is and how long it will take for use to truly understand all facets of it. Hopefully, we can continue to plug away at it and the more we know about this incredible organ, definitely the better.

  7. Caleb Yoder says:

    Whoa, that’s sooooo cooooooool. I’m always wowed to some degree by your posts, Sarah.
    And you have no idea how much I appreciate the Rattata.

  8. Steven Weiss says:

    Is there any way I can get my hands on some “tumor necrosis factor alpha”? ‘Cause if some is good, more is better. And I want a super-brain.

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