A Natural History of Neurons

Diverse mutations reveal lineage of brain cells

Stem cells (white dots at bottom and spindles in middle) in the developing brain generate mature neurons (white teardrops at top). New research suggests that deciphering patterns of somatic genetic mutation in neurons can reveal the history of cell divisions that give rise to the brain. Image: Peter Wang and Matthew Johnson

Research team of co-senior author Peter Park combined single-cell genome sequencing with rigorous data analysis techniques to show for the first time that the brains of healthy people possess mutations in a significant number of somatic cells. The paper is featured on the cover of the October 2 Science.

Story by Stephanie Dutchen appears in HMS News.


Somatic mutation in single human neurons tracks developmental and transcriptional history. Lodato et al. Science 2 October 2015: 94-98. DOI: 10.1126/science.aab1785

Funded by National Institutes of Health and the Manton Center for Orphan Disease Research