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The Art in Science

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Justine Pinskey, Graduate Student (Allen Laboratory), Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, University of Michigan Medical School

The cerebellum is arguably one of the most beautiful parts of the brain. Hidden within its folds are layers and layers of cell types with tightly regulated functions. Purkinje cells, which are the large, triangular-shaped cyan cells in this image, are like traffic cops, sending out signals to tell other cells were to go and when to divide so that they end up in the correct layer of the developing cerebellum. One cell type that Purkinje cells regulate are Bergmann glia cells, which are stained here in red. These precise instructions give rise to an organized and functioning cerebellum, which connects with other parts of the brain to control balance and coordination. When signaling from Purkinje cells gets out of control, responding cells can migrate and divide too much, which can cause the common childhood brain tumor medulloblastoma. Our research aims to understand how these signals are sent and received, so that we can find better treatments for medulloblastoma and other tumors regulated by the same signals.