The aim of this study was to investigate the histological and biological features of the human cerebellar cortex development and differentiation. We analyzed 52 brains of fetal and infant death victims, aged from 17 gestational weeks to 12th postnatal month. In particular, in the cerebellar cortex at different ages we evaluated, besides the structural aspects, the expression of several biomarkers implicated in proliferative processes (c-fos, PCNA and apoptosis). We observed morphological patterns progressively evolving every month, from the indefinite structure of the second gestational trimester to the four-layered structure (external granular layer, molecular layer, Purkinje cell layer, internal granular layer) of the late fetal cortex and subsequently to the three-layered postnatal definitive morphology, due to involution of the external granular layer. The evaluation of the biological features of the cerebellar cortex showed high proliferative activity mainly confined to the transient external granular layer in prenatal life, and high apoptotic index after birth. Thus, the histological examination, better with the support of biomarker investigations, allows with accuracy to describe the dynamic sequence of steps that occur in human cerebellar cortex development and to establish in each case the age, namely the pre- or postnatal month of life. Consequently, we can diagnose delayed or altered processes of differentiation during the development of the human cerebellar cortex. © 2006 ISDN.
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