Scientists from Singapore have streamlined the process of mass producing GABAergic neurons.
Scientists from Singapore have streamlined the process of mass producing GABAergic neurons (GNs), providing researchers around the world with more resources to study neural disorders such as autism, schizophrenia and epilepsy.
To ensure normal brain function, a type of nerve cell called GABAergic neurons (GNs) work alongside what are called excitatory neurons (ENs). GNs serve as ‘traffic lights’ and ENs serve as ‘expressways’ for signals between neurons. This relationship between GNs and ENs are responsible for our behaviour, emotions, and higher reasoning. When the function of GNs is impaired, it results in symptoms observed in many psychiatric disorders.
“Just like how a balance of Yin and Yang is needed in order to stay healthy, a balance of ENs and GNs is required for normal brain function. We now know a fair bit about ENs because we have good protocols to make them. However, we still know very little of the other player, the GNs, because current protocols do not work well. Yet, when these GNs malfunction our brain goes haywire,” explained Dr Alfred Sun, Research Fellow at NNI and GIS post-doctoral fellow.
Dr Shawn Je (L), Assistant Professor in the Neuroscience and Behavioural Disorders Programme at Duke-NUS and Dr Alfred Sun (R), Research Fellow at NNI and GIS post-doctoral fellow.
Scientists worldwide have been trying hard to generate a consistent supply of GNs in the laboratory to facilitate the study of many psychiatric disorders, but have been faced with many challenges such as poor yield and the many complex steps involved.
Many of these limitations have now been overcome by the development of a rapid and robust protocol by the team from Duke-NUS Medical School (Duke-NUS), A*STAR’s Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) and the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI). This new protocol uses human stem cells to produce more GNs up to three times faster than previous protocols.
“Our quick, efficient and easy way to mass produce GNs for lab use is a game changer for neuroscience and drug discovery."
- Dr Shawn Je, Assistant Professor in the Neuroscience and Behavioural Disorders Programme at Duke-NUS, and senior author of the study
The speed and efficiency means researchers now have unprecedented access to large quantities of GNs for studying psychiatric and neurological disorders. It also paves the way for development of new treatments for autism, schizophrenia and epilepsy,
“Our quick, efficient and easy way to mass produce GNs for lab use is a game changer for neuroscience and drug discovery. With increased recognition of the essential role of GNs in almost all neurological and psychiatric diseases, we envisage our new method to be widely used to advance research and drug screening,” said Dr Shawn Je, Assistant Professor in the Neuroscience and Behavioural Disorders Programme at Duke-NUS, and senior author of the study.