What is it about?

The factors that influence directional growth of nerve cells remain largely mysterious. We serendipitously found that groups of nerve cells (tissue explants) show asymmetric growth in tissue culture. Such asymmetry is not necessary surprising. However, what was surprising is that the orientation of the asymmetry was the same for several explants in the same tissue culture dish. This was not true of individual nerve cells growing separately.

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Why is it important?

We are not aware of any prior description of this phenomenon and we do not know the underlying mechanism. One of the intriguing aspects is that this appears to be an emergent property of the nerve tissue.


What we find most striking about this observation is that it only seems to occur at the level of groups of nerve cells. This suggests that it is an emergent property. We have yet to uncover the underlying mechanism(s) but our suspicion is that this type of directed outgrowth reflects a property of the developing nervous system that likely contributes to proper orientation within the embryo. At this point, we can only classify it as a mysterious phenomenon that occurs in tissue culture but it may well point to a fundamental aspect of the regulation of neuronal development.

Keith Crutcher
University of Cincinnati

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This page is a summary of: Segregated neural explants exhibit co-oriented, asymmetric, neurite outgrowth, PLoS ONE, September 2019, PLOS, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0216263.
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