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The Art in Science

Product Image Dormant Heroes

Dormant Heroes

Sumru Bayin, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow (Alexandra Joyner Laboratory), Sloan Kettering Institute 

The cerebellum is responsible for coordinated movement, learning and emotional state and very large neurons called Purkinje cells are critical for these functions. During development of the cerebellum, Purkinje cells coordinate the production of various cell types that are needed to form normal neural circuits. Normally, once neurons begin to mature, they stop proliferating. However, if Purkinje cells in newborn mice are killed, neighboring immature Purkinje cells that are normally dormant (non-proliferative) can sense the injury and begin to divide to replace the lost cells. This image shows a section of a regenerating cerebellum after half of the Purkinje cells were experimentally killed in mice. Purkinje cells that were spared or newly formed after the injury are labeled in green. Dying cells form an extra inner layer (yellow). Understanding this process of circumventing dormancy is important since, in humans, loss of Purkinje cells due to injury at birth has been associated with autism spectrum disorder.