This image captures the birth of a zebrafish neuron in a 9-hour time-lapse photo. A parent cell with the stem cell-like ability to change its stripes starts by splitting in two (as seen in purple at the 8 o’clock position). Moving clockwise around the circle, one new cell transforms into a neuron (white) and drifts away, leaving behind its sibling.
The original purple cell can essentially keep spinning off new neurons while retaining its flexibility. This plays a crucial role in both the growth of young brains and the repair of mature ones. Scientists hope a deeper understanding of this neuron-creation process will yield improved treatments for injuries such as stroke, which naturally boosts the creation of new neurons to a certain degree.
Charlie Wood is a science writer with a bachelor’s degree in physics from Brown University and a master’s degree is science journalism from New York University. In previous lives he taught physics in Mozambique and English in Japan, but these days he freelances from his home in New York.
Neumüller RA, Knoblich JA. Dividing cellular asymmetry: asymmetric cell division and its implications for stem cells and cancer. Genes & Development. 23: 2675-2699 (2009).
Shitamukai A, Matsuzaki F. Control of asymmetric cell division of mammalian neural progenitors. Development, Growth & Differentiation. 54, 277-286 (2012).
Zhang RL, Zhang ZG, Chopp M. Neurogenesis in the adult ischemic brain: generation, migration, survival, and restorative therapy. The Neuroscientist. October 1, 2005.
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