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Scientists Develop NeuM Technology to Decode Degenerative Brain Disorders

Written by : Nikita Saha

April 9, 2024

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This development is a collaborative effort of the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), and prof Chang Young-Tae's team from Pohang University of Science and Technology.

A team of South Korean scientists has developed a new labeling technology called ‘NeuM’ to help decode degenerative brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, as well as stroke.

‘NeuM’ (Neuronal Membrane-selective), can observe neuronal structure in detail which enables successful monitoring of neuronal changes for up to 72 hours, said the research team led by Dr Kim Yun Kyung.

This development is a collaborative effort of the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), and prof Chang Young-Tae's team from Pohang University of Science and Technology.

The next-generation technology selectively labels neuronal membranes, visualizing neuronal structures and allowing real-time monitoring of neuronal changes.

The research is published in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

NeuM’s Functionalities

Neurons constantly adapt their structure and function for information transmission from sensory organs to the brain, regulating cognition, memory, and actions.

Thus, to combat degenerative neurological conditions, it's crucial to develop methods for selectively labeling living neurons for real-time monitoring.

However, current gene-based and antibody-based labeling technologies, commonly used to observe neurons, are required to improve their accuracy and ability in long-term tracking due to their dependence on specific gene expressions or proteins.

NeuM, developed by the research team through the molecular design of neuronal cells, possesses binding affinity to neuronal membranes, facilitating long-term tracking and high-resolution imaging of neurons.

Further, fluorescent probes within NeuM bind to neuronal membranes utilizing the activity of living cells, emitting fluorescent signals upon excitation by specific wavelengths of light.

This visualization enables detailed observation of neuronal terminal structures, along with high-resolution monitoring of neuronal differentiation and interactions.

NeuM, as the first technology to stain cell membranes through endocytosis in living neurons, displays targeted reactivity towards living cells, excluding dead cells without internalization.

Additionally, the research team has extended the observation window of neurons from a mere six hours to 72 hours. This extension allows for capturing dynamic changes in living neurons over an extended period, responding to environmental shifts.

Moreover, the new technology, NeuM, is expected to provide insights into research and therapy development for degenerative neurological diseases, for which there are currently no cures.

“NeuM can distinguish ageing and degenerating neurons, becoming a crucial tool in elucidating the mechanisms of degenerative brain disorders and developing treatments,” said Dr Kim Yun Kyung from the Brain Science Institute at KIST.

“In the future, we plan to refine NeuM for even more precise analysis of neurons by designing fluorescence wavelengths to distinguish colours such as green and red,” he added.

In a similar development, last month, IIT-Guwahati unveiled a novel algorithm named Unique Brain Network Identification Number (UBNIN), aimed at encoding the intricate brain networks of both healthy individuals and patients diagnosed with Parkinson's disease (PD).

The study, conducted in collaboration with the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), India, involved the analysis of structural brain MRI scans from 180 PD patients and 70 healthy individuals.


About Chime India

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) is an executive organization dedicated to serving senior digital health leaders. CHIME includes more than 5,000 members in 56 countries and two US territories and partners with over 150 healthcare IT businesses and professional services firms. CHIME enables its members and business partners to collaborate, exchange ideas, develop professionally and advocate the effective use of information management to improve the health and care throughout the communities they serve. CHIME's members are chief information officers (CIOs), chief medical information officers (CMIOs), chief nursing information officers (CNIOs), chief innovation officers (CIOs), chief digital officers (CDOs), and other senior healthcare leaders. The CHIME India Chapter became the first international chapter outside North America in 2016 and is now a community of over 70+ members in India. For more information, please visit www.chimecentral.org

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