Glycogen distribution in adult and geriatric mice brains

  • Rana Alrabeh

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Astrocytes, the most abundant glial cell type in the brain, undergo a number of roles in brain physiology; among them, the energetic support of neurons is the best characterized. Contained within astrocytes is the brain’s obligate energy store, glycogen. Through glycogenolysis, glycogen, a storage form of glucose, is converted to pyruvate that is further reduced to lactate and transferred to neurons as an energy source via MCTs. Glycogen is a multi-branched polysaccharide synthesized from the glucose uptaken in astrocytes. It has been shown that glycogen accumulates with age and contributes to the physiological ageing process in the brain. In this study, we compared glycogen distribution between young adults and geriatric mice to understand the energy consumption of synaptic terminals during ageing using computational tools. We segmented and densely reconstructed neuropil and glycogen granules within six (three 4 month old old and three 24 month old) volumes of Layer 1 somatosensory cortex mice brains from FIB-SEM stacks, using a combination of semi-automated and manual tools, ilastik and TrakEM2. Finally, the 3D visualization software, Blender, was used to analyze the dataset using the DBSCAN and KDTree Nearest neighbor algorithms to study the distribution of glycogen granules compared to synapses, using a plugin that was developed for this purpose. The Nearest Neighbors and clustering results of 6 datasets show that glycogen clusters around excitatory synapses more than inhibitory synapses and that, in general, glycogen is found around axonal boutons more than dendritic spines. There was no significant accumulation of glycogen with ageing within our admittedly small dataset. However, there was a homogenization of glycogen distribution with age and that is consistent with published literature. We conclude that glycogen distribution in the brain is not a random process but follows a function distribution.
Date of AwardMay 2017
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Biological, Environmental Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorPierre Magistretti (Supervisor)


  • Glycogen
  • Astrocyte
  • Ageing
  • Synapse
  • Segmentation
  • Reconstruction

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