University of Southampton
NeuroTraffic: Orientated neuronal networks for investigating mechanisms of tau propagation
Alzheimer's Research UK
The brain controls our daily activities, such as seeing, talking and moving, and also our emotions and behaviour. Within the brain, individual nerve cells connect to form large networks that process, propagate and store all the information required to perform these various tasks. Unfortunately, toxic agents such as viruses and bacterial toxins can exploit these nerve cell highways to spread throughout the brain. The proposed project addresses if protein aggregates such as tangles, a hall mark of many neurodegenerative diseases, also directly travel along nerve cell networks to spread to other areas of the brain, and if so, what mode of transport they take. To address this question, we will use an innovative microchip that allows direct access to individual connected nerve cells and thus recreates the small nerve cell highways that can be individually tested. We will film, in real-time, the spread of these tangles to understand their movement. This experimental platform will also be useful to screen drugs for their ability to stop traffic of toxic material along nerve cells. A better understanding of how damaging materials move through the brain and enters nerve cells will aid the development of more effective therapies for the treatment of dementia.