New neuron simulation technology

Neurosimulation provides insight into Alzheimer’s.

What is going on in your brain? New techniques to simulate your neurons using experimental data and computer models give researchers more information on that question, where it counts.

A research team from Bonn, Germany published an article in the journal Neuron which shed light on the morphological characteristics of  Alzheimer’s disease. This research also provides scientists with a new way of looking at neurons for all different kinds of neurological degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and ALS. The researchers gathered information from experimental data from both single neurons and clusters of neurons. The data included physical characteristics and electric properties. They used structural data to recreate the neurons and neuronal clusters as a simulation on the computer. Using the model and data on the electric properties of the neurons, scientists recreated the dysfunction seen in Alzheimer’s.

The findings from this study suggest that a hallmark of neurological disease is the inability of neurons to effectively communicate with each other. In particular, the ends of the neurons atrophy due to Alzheimer’s disease, and this is the focal point of the communication problem. The method used in the study is what many medical researchers are striving for: a process to study and maintain the integrity of the biological specimen. This means to keep the biological specimen in as normal of a state as it would otherwise be.

Maintaining biological integrity is arguably the biggest challenge any scientist faces when dealing with living specimens. Understanding pathology requires understanding the normal workings of the system. Unfortunately, this is incredibly difficult given that it is nearly impossible to observe these processes in detail when our observation methods damage them. Computer modelling may be a way to overcome this hurdle.

Stefan Remy, a medical doctor who leads the Bonn research team, suggests that now that we know that structural damage could be a significant factor of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s, pharmaceuticals can and should be developed to protect the structural integrity of the neuron so as to avoid these problems.

This success gives scientists a new tool in modelling biological processes and provides insight into how we might better treat illnesses which are thus far challenging to deal with.

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