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Final Activity and Management Report Summary - NEUROGENESIS (Control of neurogenesis in vertebrate brain)

We investigated the mechanisms that control the generation of neurons in the vertebrate brain - this process is called neurogenesis. Our aim was to understand how stem cell behaviour is regulated. Stem cell behaviour involves the ability of cells to divide to generate more cells (called daughter cells) some of which are more stem cells and others of which are the neurons of the brain themselves. These types of cell divisions are called asymmetric divisions.

We tested the hypothesis that asymmetric divisions are regulated by specialised proteins present in the stem cells becoming segregated to different daughter cells - this hypothesis is called asymmetric inheritance. We were able to visualize asymmetric inheritance of proteins for the first time in an intact vertebrate embryo brain and we show that asymmetric inheritance is at least partially responsible for stem cell behaviour. Our work also found a completely unexpected aspect of asymmetric division that contradicts previous hypotheses.

We show that the cells that become neurons in asymmetric divisions originate from the daughters that had previously been thought to generate more stem cells. This is an important new observation that potentially changes the way scientists think about stem cell behaviour in vertebrate embryo brains.

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