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New nerve cells in diseased brain

Nerve cells generated from stem cells in an adult diseased and damaged brain function as normal nerve cells.

Nerve cells generated from stem cells in an adult diseased and damaged brain function as normal nerve cells. The new cells also seem to counteract the effects of the disease. These findings, by EuroStemCell researchers at Lund University in Sweden, are published in the journal Neuron this week. Until the mid-1990s researchers believed that the adult brain could not generate new nerve cells. This was overturned when Professor Olle Lindvall and others at Lund University showed that new nerve cells are formed not only in healthy brains but also in brains affected by disease and damage. They demonstrated that new nerve cells could be created from the stem cells of an adult brain following a stroke and then migrate to the damaged area. It has, however, been unclear just how these new nerve cells function. Do they behave normally? Are they beneficial or detrimental to a diseased brain? For the first time, scientists are now able to answer these questions on the basis of experiments on rats. “Our study shows that nerve cells that are generated from stem cells in an adult epileptic brain develop into normal nerve cells. Interestingly, they also join up with other nerve cells in a way that indicates they are trying to counteract the diseased function,” says Olle Lindvall, leading the research team. This work, carried out at the Section for Restorative Neurology and the Stem Cell Center at Lund University, is basic research, but it raises potential clinical applications. By learning more about how new nerve cells are formed and how they function, it may be possible in the future to help the brain heal itself after a disease or injury.

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