Tissues from the same source are also being used to investigate how chemicals in the brain transmit signals between nerve cells and thereby control their function. Tissue from rodents has traditionally been used for the purpose and it was assumed that results would be similar in the human brain. However, marked species differences have now come to light,(10) prompting some researchers to explore the use of human brain tissue. Thin slices of tissue are used to investigate the electrophysiological and pharmacological properties of human cerebral cortical neurons, and according to David McCormick of Yale University's School of Medicine, the advantages are many:(10)
"... it overcomes potential species differences; it allows direct study of the cellular basis of numerous neurological disorders; and it decreases the number of animals required."
The use of human brain tissue in the study of neurological disease is likely to yield many new insights and was the method by which the chemical imbalance in Parkinson's Disease was discovered. In 1960 Ehringer and Hornykiewicz found that patients with Parkinson's Disease had depleted levels of a chemical called dopamine in those regions of the brain most affected by the illness. This led to the successful use of L-dopa, a drug converted to dopamine in the brain, thereby making up the deficiency.(11)
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