News

Becoming a nerve cell: timing is of the essence

14/08/2020

In this week’s edition of Science, a Belgian team of researchers led by Pierre Vanderhaeghen (VIB-KU Leuven, ULB) finds that mitochondria regulate a key event during brain development: how neural stem cells become nerve cells. Mitochondria influence this cell fate switch during a precise period that is twice as long in humans compared to mice. The seminal findings highlight an unexpected function for mitochondria that may help explain how humans developed a bigger brain during evolution, and how mitochondrial defects lead to neurodevelopmental diseases.

To become, or not to become... a neuron

25/07/2019

Researchers led by Pierre Vanderhaeghen and Jérôme Bonnefont (VIB-KU Leuven and ULB), in collaboration with Stein Aerts (VIB KU Leuven) and François Guillemot (Crick Institute), have unraveled a new mechanism controlling the switch between growth and differentiation of neural stem cells during brain development. They discovered a specific factor that makes stem cells ‘deaf’ to proliferative signals, which in turn causes them to differentiate into neurons and shape the marvelous complexity of our brain.

 

How did human brains get so large?

31/05/2018

The human brain is a remarkable organ, but how did it evolve to give us such unprecedented cognitive abilities? The research team of Pierre Vanderhaeghen (ULB, VIB-KU Leuven) turned to the genome for answers. In the latest edition of Cell, they report that a set of genes found only in humans and in no other living species, controls key steps of brain development. These genes could be human-specific regulators of brain size, a finding with important implications for human evolution and disease.