The Role of 4D Mitochondrial Morphology in Impaired Neurogenesis

2022 Seed Grant
Johannes Schöneberg, Ph.D.
University of California, San Diego

Neurogenesis is the process in which the neuronal cells of the brain are created from stem cells. In embryos, problems with neurogenesis lead to severe embryonal defects and mental disabilities in children such as learning and memory disabilities, seizures and even death. In adults, impaired neurogenesis is implicated in severe neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. Mitochondria, small structures inside cells typically occupied with metabolism and energy production, have recently surprised the scientific community by having been revealed as major regulators of neurogenesis. It has been found that fragmentation of the mitochondrial network is critical for neurogenesis. It is, therefore, reasonable to hypothesize that it is the exact mitochondrial shape that is linked to neurogenesis. So far, microscopy technology has never been able to capture mitochondrial shape in the necessary four dimensions (4D, three spatial, one time) in high enough technology that is able to capture mitochondrial shape in 4D for the first time and use it to establish this long hypothesized link between 4D mitochondrial shape and neurogenesis. Dr. Schöneberg’s ultimate goal is to use this seed grant to gather preliminary data so that a large research program can be established that aims at developing new drugs that restore neurogenesis by restoring 4D mitochondrial shape.

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