Abstract : Three-dimensional cultures of human neural tissue/organlike structures in vitro can be achieved by mimicking the developmental processes occurring in vivo. Rapid progress in the field of neural organoids has fueled the hope (and hype) for improved understanding of brain development and functions, modeling of neural diseases, discovery of new drugs, and supply of surrogate sources of transplantation. In this short review, we summarize the state-of-the-art applications of this fascinating tool in various research fields and discuss the reality of the technique hoping that the current limitations will soon be overcome by the efforts of ingenious researchers.
Abstract : Hypothalamus is a brain region that controls food intake and energy expenditure while sensing signals that convey information about energy status. Within the hypothalamus, molecularly and functionally distinct neurons work in concert under physiological conditions. However, under pathological conditions such as in diet-induced obesity (DIO) model, these neurons show dysfunctional firing patterns and distorted regulation by neurotransmitters and neurohormones. Concurrently, resident glial cells including astrocytes dramatically transform into reactive states. In particular, it has been reported that reactive astrogliosis is observed in the hypothalamus, along with various neuroinflammatory signals. However, how the reactive astrocytes control and modulate DIO by influencing neighboring neurons is not well understood. Recently, new lines of evidence have emerged indicating that these reactive astrocytes directly contribute to the pathology of obesity by synthesizing and tonically releasing the major inhibitory transmitter GABA. The released GABA strongly inhibits the neighboring neurons that control energy expenditure. These surprising findings shed light on the interplay between reactive astrocytes and neighboring neurons in the hypothalamus. This review summarizes recent discoveries related to the functions of hypothalamic reactive astrocytes in obesity and raises new potential therapeutic targets against obesity.
Abstract : Neurons-on-a-Chip technology has been developed to provide diverse in vitro neuro-tools to study neuritogenesis, synaptogensis, axon guidance, and network dynamics. The two core enabling technologies are soft-lithography and microelectrode array technology. Soft lithography technology made it possible to fabricate microstamps and microfluidic channel devices with a simple replica molding method in a biological laboratory and innovatively reduced the turn-around time from assay design to chip fabrication, facilitating various experimental designs. To control nerve cell behaviors at the single cell level via chemical cues, surface biofunctionalization methods and micropatterning techniques were developed. Microelectrode chip technology, which provides a functional readout by measuring the electrophysiological signals from individual neurons, has become a popular platform to investigate neural information processing in networks. Due to these key advances, it is possible to study the relationship between the network structure and functions, and they have opened a new era of neurobiology and will become standard tools in the near future.
Abstract : To understand the microcircuitry of the brain, the anatomical and functional connectivity among neurons must be resolved. One of the technical hurdles to achieving this goal is that the anatomical connections, or synapses, are often smaller than the diffraction limit of light and thus are difficult to resolve by conventional microscopy, while the microcircuitry of the brain is on the scale of 1 mm or larger. To date, the gold standard method for microcircuit reconstruction has been electron microscopy (EM). However, despite its rapid development, EM has clear shortcomings as a method for microcircuit reconstruction. The greatest weakness of this method is arguably its incompatibility with functional and molecular analysis. Fluorescence microscopy, on the other hand, is readily compatible with numerous physiological and molecular analyses. We believe that recent advances in various fluorescence microscopy techniques offer a new possibility for reliable synapse detection in large volumes of neural circuits. In this minireview, we summarize recent advances in fluorescence-based microcircuit reconstruction. In the same vein as these studies, we introduce our recent efforts to analyze the long-range connectivity among brain areas and the subcellular distribution of synapses of interest in relatively large volumes of cortical tissue with array tomography and superresolution microscopy.
Abstract : Evasion, approach and predation are examples of innate behaviour that are fundamental for the survival of animals. Uniting these behaviours is the assessment of threat, which is required to select between these options. Far from being comprehensive, we give a broad review over recent studies utilising optic techniques that have identified neural circuits and genetic identities underlying these behaviours.