Single-Cell Isolation and Analysis

  • Neville N. Osborne


The human brain has approximately 1010 nerve cells, and this vast population of neurons presents a formidable challenge to the biologist trying to understand how the nervous system works. The great structural complexity of the nervous system and the consequent difficulty in interpreting gross observations were enough to stimulate numerous early attempts to study isolated individual units. In fact, Deiters (1865), more than 100 years ago, published excellent drawings of neurons he dissected from the anterior horn of the spinal cord. It is now clear, from the mass of electrophysiological and electron-microscopic data that has accumulated, that nerve cells are independent units that are interrelated in complex ways (see, for example, Bullock, 1967; Bullock and Horridge, 1965; Eccles, 1964; Segundo, 1970; Horridge, 1968). Thus, one classic approach by the biochemist trying to elucidate the complex structure of the brain is to separate the component parts (e.g., neurons, glia, myelin, nuclei, synaptosomes, synaptic vesicles) and study them in isolation (see, for example, Rose, 1967; Whittaker, 1968, 1973; Poduslo and Norton, 1972). Studies of this kind by the biochemist have many advantages, but they can suffer from certain drawbacks such as the possibility that changes in the constituents may be caused by the elaborate separation or fractionation procedures employed. Moreover, any differences there may be in the properties of similar structures obtained from the brain cannot be observed.


Helix Pomatia Dansyl Chloride Pedal Ganglion Buccal Ganglion Giant Neuron 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Neville N. Osborne
    • 1
  1. 1.Nuffield Laboratory of OphthalmologyUniversity of OxfordOxfordEngland

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