Research Highlights

Real-time ‘genetic movie’ of newborn neurons

Published online 9 March 2016

This real-time movie uncovers the possible roles of specific genes in brain disorders.

Biplab Das

Neuroscientists have managed to make a real-time movie of how specific genes express themselves when neurons sprout from specialized stem cells, according to a new paper. 

By using a fluorescent marker that binds to cellular proteins, they isolated newborn neurons and identified the genes that orchestrated the birth and development of neurons from the stem cells1.  

Since the cortex, the outermost layer of the brain, plays complex sensory and motor functions, this discovery will help understand how neurons function in the adult brain and even malfunction to cause neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases in later life. 

The scientists from University of Geneva, Switzerland, and King Abdulaziz University, Saudi Arabia, were able to isolate and visualize neurons from birth, after which they migrate to form neuronal circuits in the cerebral cortex of mouse brain over a period of two days.

The scientists found that 12-hour-old neurons are vulnerable to genetic mutations that could potentially sow the seeds of future neurological disorders. 

This new technique allows scientists to recreate cerebral circuits in a dish. It is even possible to alter the expression of certain genes that accelerate neurons’ growth, the researchers add.  

“This technique allows us to investigate normal and abnormal assembly of neuronal circuits which are potentially useful to understand how certain genes cause neurological disorders, yielding ways to treat them,” says principal investigator Denis Jabaudon.


  1. Telley, L. et al. Sequential transcriptional waves direct the differentiation of newborn neurons in the mouse neocortex. Science