HHMI Janelia Research Campus

Ashburn, VA, United States

HHMI Janelia Research Campus

Ashburn, VA, United States
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News Article | April 10, 2017
Site: www.medicalnewstoday.com

Biomedical engineers have developed a way to deliver drugs to specific types of neurons in the brain, providing an unprecedented ability to study neurological diseases while also promising a more targeted way to treat them. Drugs are the tool of choice for studying the connections between neurons, and continue to be the mainstream treatment for neurological disease. But a major drawback in both endeavors is that the drugs affect all types of neurons, complicating the study of how cell receptors in the synapse - the gap between neurons - work in an intact brain, and how their manipulation can lead to clinical benefits and side effects. A new method named DART (Drugs Acutely Restricted by Tethering) may overcome these limitations. Developed by researchers at Duke University and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, DART offers researchers the first opportunity to test what happens when a drug is targeted exclusively to one cell type. In its inaugural study, DART reveals how movement difficulties in a mouse model of Parkinson's Disease are controlled by the AMPA receptor (AMPAR) - a synaptic protein that enables neurons to receive fast incoming signals from other neurons in the brain. The results reveal why a recent clinical trial of an AMPAR-blocking drug failed, and offer a new approach to using the pharmaceutical. The paper appeared online in the journal Science. "This study marks a major milestone in behavioral neuropharmacology," said Michael Tadross, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, who is in the process of moving his laboratory from the HHMI Janelia Research Campus to Duke. "The insights we gained in studying Parkinson's mice were unexpected and could not have been obtained with any previous method." DART works by genetically programming a specific cell type to express a sort of GPS beacon. The "beacon" is an enzyme borrowed from bacteria that is inert - it does nothing more than sit on the cell surface. Nothing, that is, until researchers deliver drugs loaded with a special homing device. Researchers administer these drugs at such low doses that they do not affect other cells. Because the homing system is so efficient, however, the drug is captured by the tagged cells' surface, accumulating within minutes to concentrations that are 100 to 1,000 times higher than anywhere else. In an experiment using a mouse model of Parkinson's disease, Tadross and colleagues attached the homing signal beacon to two types of neurons found in the basal ganglia - the region of the brain responsible for motor control. One type, referred to as D1 neurons, are believed to give a "go" command. The other, referred to as D2 neurons, are thought to do just the opposite, providing commands to stop movements. Using DART, Tadross delivered an AMPAR-blocking pharmaceutical to only D1-neurons, only D2-neurons, or both. When delivered to both cell types simultaneously, the drugs improved only one of several components of motor dysfunction - mirroring the lackluster results of recent human clinical trials. The team then found that delivering the drug to only the D1/"go" neurons did absolutely nothing. Surprisingly, however, by targeting the same drug to D2/"stop" neurons, the mice's movements became more frequent, faster, fluid and linear - in other words, much closer to normal. While the drug stops neurons from receiving certain incoming signals, it does not completely shut them down. This nuance is particularly important for a subset of the D2 neurons that have two prominent forms of firing. With DART, these components could be separately manipulated, providing the first evidence that Parkinson's motor deficits are attributable to the AMPAR-based component of firing in these cells. Tadross said this level of nuance could not have been obtained with prior cell type-specific methods that completely shut neurons down. "Already in our first use of DART, we've learned something new about the synaptic basis of circuit dysfunction in Parkinson's disease," said Tadross. "We've discovered that targeting a specific receptor on specific types of neurons can lead to surprisingly potent improvements." Tadross is already looking into how this discovery might translate into a new therapy by delivering drugs to these neurons through an emerging viral technique. He is also beginning work to develop a version of DART that does not need the genetically added homing beacon to work. Both efforts will require years of research before seeing fruition - but that's not stopping Tadross. "All too often in basic science, approaches are developed that may 'one day' make a difference to human health," he said. "At Duke, there's a palpable emphasis on providing new treatments to people as quickly as possible. I'm very excited that in this environment, my lab can work collaboratively with scientists, physicians, and biotech to solve the real-world challenges involved." This research was funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.


Macnamee S.E.,University of Arizona | Liu K.E.,University of Arizona | Gerhard S.,HHMI Janelia Research Campus | Gerhard S.,ETH Zurich | And 5 more authors.
Journal of Comparative Neurology | Year: 2016

Anatomical, molecular, and physiological interactions between astrocytes and neuronal synapses regulate information processing in the brain. The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster has become a valuable experimental system for genetic manipulation of the nervous system and has enormous potential for elucidating mechanisms that mediate neuron-glia interactions. Here, we show the first electrophysiological recordings from Drosophila astrocytes and characterize their spatial and physiological relationship with particular synapses. Astrocyte intrinsic properties were found to be strongly analogous to those of vertebrate astrocytes, including a passive current-voltage relationship, low membrane resistance, high capacitance, and dye-coupling to local astrocytes. Responses to optogenetic stimulation of glutamatergic premotor neurons were correlated directly with anatomy using serial electron microscopy reconstructions of homologous identified neurons and surrounding astrocytic processes. Robust bidirectional communication was present: neuronal activation triggered astrocytic glutamate transport via excitatory amino acid transporter 1 (Eaat1), and blocking Eaat1 extended glutamatergic interneuron-evoked inhibitory postsynaptic currents in motor neurons. The neuronal synapses were always located within 1 μm of an astrocytic process, but none were ensheathed by those processes. Thus, fly astrocytes can modulate fast synaptic transmission via neurotransmitter transport within these anatomical parameters. J. Comp. Neurol. 524:1979-1998, 2016. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


Shepherd D.,Bangor University | Shepherd D.,HHMI Janelia Research Campus | Harris R.,HHMI Janelia Research Campus | Williams D.W.,HHMI Janelia Research Campus | And 2 more authors.
Journal of Comparative Neurology | Year: 2016

During larval life most of the thoracic neuroblasts (NBs) in Drosophila undergo a second phase of neurogenesis to generate adult-specific neurons that remain in an immature, developmentally stalled state until pupation. Using a combination of MARCM and immunostaining with a neurotactin antibody, Truman et al. (2004; Development 131:5167–5184) identified 24 adult-specific NB lineages within each thoracic hemineuromere of the larval ventral nervous system (VNS), but because of the neurotactin labeling of lineage tracts disappearing early in metamorphosis, they were unable extend the identification of these lineages into the adult. Here we show that immunostaining with an antibody against the cell adhesion molecule neuroglian reveals the same larval secondary lineage projections through metamorphosis and bfy identifying each neuroglian-positive tract at selected stages we have traced the larval hemilineage tracts for all three thoracic neuromeres through metamorphosis into the adult. To validate tract identifications we used the genetic toolkit developed by Harris et al. (2015; Elife 4) to preserve hemilineage-specific GAL4 expression patterns from larval into the adult stage. The immortalized expression proved a powerful confirmation of the analysis of the neuroglian scaffold. This work has enabled us to directly link the secondary, larval NB lineages to their adult counterparts. The data provide an anatomical framework that 1) makes it possible to assign most neurons to their parent lineage and 2) allows more precise definitions of the neuronal organization of the adult VNS based in developmental units/rules. J. Comp. Neurol. 524:2677–2695, 2016. © 2016 The Authors The Journal of Comparative Neurology Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. © 2016 The Authors The Journal of Comparative Neurology Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


Zwart M.F.,HHMI Janelia Research Campus | Zwart M.F.,University of Cambridge | Pulver S.R.,HHMI Janelia Research Campus | Pulver S.R.,University of St. Andrews | And 6 more authors.
Neuron | Year: 2016

Locomotor systems generate diverse motor patterns to produce the movements underlying behavior, requiring that motor neurons be recruited at various phases of the locomotor cycle. Reciprocal inhibition produces alternating motor patterns; however, the mechanisms that generate other phasic relationships between intrasegmental motor pools are unknown. Here, we investigate one such motor pattern in the Drosophila larva, using a multidisciplinary approach including electrophysiology and ssTEM-based circuit reconstruction. We find that two motor pools that are sequentially recruited during locomotion have identical excitable properties. In contrast, they receive input from divergent premotor circuits. We find that this motor pattern is not orchestrated by differential excitatory input but by a GABAergic interneuron acting as a delay line to the later-recruited motor pool. Our findings show how a motor pattern is generated as a function of the modular organization of locomotor networks through segregation of inhibition, a potentially general mechanism for sequential motor patterns. © 2016 The Authors


Hanslovsky P.,HHMI Janelia Research Campus | Bogovic J.A.,HHMI Janelia Research Campus | Saalfeld S.,HHMI Janelia Research Campus
Bioinformatics | Year: 2017

Motivation: Serial section microscopy is an established method for detailed anatomy reconstruction of biological specimen. During the last decade, high resolution electron microscopy (EM) of serial sections has become the de-facto standard for reconstruction of neural connectivity at ever increasing scales (EM connectomics). In serial section microscopy, the axial dimension of the volume is sampled by physically removing thin sections from the embedded specimen and subsequently imaging either the block-face or the section series. This process has limited precision leading to inhomogeneous non-planar sampling of the axial dimension of the volume which, in turn, results in distorted image volumes. This includes that section series may be collected and imaged in unknown order. Results: We developed methods to identify and correct these distortions through image-based signal analysis without any additional physical apparatus or measurements. We demonstrate the efficacy of our methods in proof of principle experiments and application to real world problems. © The Author 2016. Published by Oxford University Press.


Parag T.,HHMI Janelia Research Campus | Ciresan D.C.,University of Applied Sciences and Arts Southern Switzerland | Giusti A.,University of Applied Sciences and Arts Southern Switzerland
Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision | Year: 2016

The prospect of neural reconstruction from Electron Microscopy (EM) images has been elucidated by the automatic segmentation algorithms. Although segmentation algorithms eliminate the necessity of tracing the neurons by hand, significant manual effort is still essential for correcting the mistakes they make. A considerable amount of human labor is also required for annotating groundtruth volumes for training the classifiers of a segmentation framework. It is critically important to diminish the dependence on human interaction in the overall reconstruction system. This study proposes a novel classifier training algorithm for EM segmentation aimed to reduce the amount of manual effort demanded by the groundtruth annotation and error refinement tasks. Instead of using an exhaustive pixel level groundtruth, an active learning algorithm is proposed for sparse labeling of pixel and boundaries of superpixels. Because over-segmentation errors are in general more tolerable and easier to correct than the under-segmentation errors, our algorithm is designed to prioritize minimization of false-merges over false-split mistakes. Our experiments on both 2D and 3D data suggest that the proposed method yields segmentation outputs that are more amenable to neural reconstruction than those of existing methods. © 2015 IEEE.


Hao X.,HHMI Janelia Research Campus | Hao X.,Zhejiang University | Martin-Rouault L.,HHMI Janelia Research Campus | Cui M.,HHMI Janelia Research Campus
Scientific Reports | Year: 2014

Controlling the propagation of electromagnetic waves is important to a broad range of applications. Recent advances in controlling wave propagation in random scattering media have enabled optical focusing and imaging inside random scattering media. In this work, we propose and demonstrate a new method to deliver optical power more efficiently through scattering media. Drastically different from the random matrix characterization approach, our method can rapidly establish high efficiency communication channels using just a few measurements, regardless of the number of optical modes, and provides a practical and robust solution to boost the signal levels in optical or short wave communications. We experimentally demonstrated analog and digital signal transmission through highly scattering media with greatly improved performance. Besides scattering, our method can also reduce the loss of signal due to absorption. Experimentally, we observed that our method forced light to go around absorbers, leading to even higher signal improvement than in the case of purely scattering media. Interestingly, the resulting signal improvement is highly directional, which provides a new means against eavesdropping.


Cui M.,HHMI Janelia Research Campus
Frontiers in Optics, FiO 2014 | Year: 2014

We developed a super-penetration microscope that effectively compensates the wavefront distortion encountered in scattering biological systems. We report high-resolution in vivo imaging of mouse cerebral cortex at large depth and noninvasive imaging through intact mouse skull.


Apostolides P.F.,HHMI Janelia Research Campus | Milstein A.D.,HHMI Janelia Research Campus | Grienberger C.,HHMI Janelia Research Campus | Bittner K.C.,HHMI Janelia Research Campus | Magee J.C.,HHMI Janelia Research Campus
Neuron | Year: 2016

In CA1 pyramidal neurons, correlated inputs trigger dendritic plateau potentials that drive neuronal plasticity and firing rate modulation. Given the strong electrotonic coupling between soma and axon, the >25 mV depolarization associated with the plateau could propagate through the axon to influence action potential initiation, propagation, and neurotransmitter release. We examined this issue in brain slices, awake mice, and a computational model. Despite profoundly inactivating somatic and proximal axon Na+ channels, plateaus evoked action potentials that recovered to full amplitude in the distal axon (>150 μm) and triggered neurotransmitter release similar to regular spiking. This effect was due to strong attenuation of plateau depolarizations by axonal K+ channels, allowing full axon repolarization and Na+ channel deinactivation. High-pass filtering of dendritic plateaus by axonal K+ channels should thus enable accurate transmission of gain-modulated firing rates, allowing neuronal firing to be efficiently read out by downstream regions as a simple rate code. CA1 pyramidal neurons generate unique spike bursts known as complex spikes, characterized by a profound decrease in action potential amplitude. Apostolides et al. investigate how action potentials of varying amplitudes are transformed into all-or-none signals in the axon. © 2016 Elsevier Inc.


Chhetri R.K.,HHMI Janelia Research Campus | Keller P.J.,HHMI Janelia Research Campus
eLife | Year: 2016

A custom-built objective lens called the Mesolens allows relatively large biological specimens to be imaged with cellular resolution. © Chhetri and Keller.

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