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Neurons Can Control Movements

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda developed a novel approach that targeted single nuclear RNA sequencing. It is used to identify an array of cholinergic interneurons that link the central nervous system to Neurons that connect to internal organs and skeletal muscles. These findings are published in the article in the journal Nature Communications.

Skeletal cholinergic motor Neurons include a subset that is susceptible to neurodegenerative diseases such as spinal muscular atrophy and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Research into these diseases and other studies have hinted at the presence of additional subtypes within the basic known categories of spinal neurons and that some of these subtypes may be more vulnerable to neurodegenerative diseases than others.

A granular systematic classification of cholinergic motor Neurons subtypes will make it possible to pinpoint and treat specific affected neurons in these neurodegenerative diseases. The team of researchers led by Claire Le Pichon, PhD, head of the Unit on the Development of Neurodegeneration at NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development use the novel genetic sequencing technique to generate an adult mouse motor neuron atlas. This transcriptomic analysis reveals 21 subtypes of neurons at discrete levels along the spinal cord and offers insight into how these neurons control movement, how they contribute to the functioning of organ systems and why some are disproportionately affected in neurodegenerative diseases.

Le Pichon said that the study lays the groundwork for understanding these cell identities. By using the same approach to sequence motor Neurons in disease states, we will now be able to identify which subtypes classified in this study are most susceptible, and hopefully, identify the transcriptional drivers of this vulnerability.

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