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Exploration and promotion of neurogenesis in the adult brain

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - Neurogenesis (Exploration and promotion of neurogenesis in the adult brain)

Reporting period: 2019-10-01 to 2021-03-31

The vast majority of nerve cells in the human brain are generated during fetal development, and it is only in very restricted areas of the brain where neurogenesis continues after birth and throughout life. The current project aims to characterize neurogenesis in the adult human brain in health and disease. We furthermore address whether there is a latent neurogenic potential in other parts of the brain, mainly by studies in mice, which potentially could be used to induce the replacement of neurons in neurological diseases.
It is possible to induce generation of neurons in the striatum in mice, a part of the brain where this normally does not occur in this species. This can serve as a model for how neurogenesis can be triggered in the adult brain. We have in this project made a detail characterization of how astrocytes, a type of supporting cells in the brain, can be triggered to start producing neurons. We have found that these cells can enter a neural stem cell-like state, which then enables them to generate neurons. Astrocytes are present throughout the brain, but it is almost only astrocytes in the striatum than can be induced to give rise to neurons. We have compared astrocytes in the striatum and somatosensory cortex, a part of the brain that is responsible for controlling our movements of our body. We have found that astrocytes also in this part of the brain can give rise to immature neurons if additional signals are provided. We are pursuing this studies further with the long-term goal to contribute to strategies to replace lost neurons in patients with neurological diseases.
This is a truly translational bringing together several areas of expertise. By combining molecular biology, transgenic animals, physics and clinical medicine, we aim to resolve how neurogenesis is suppressed in large parts of the brain. We will also assess the distribution and extent of neurogenesis in certain parts of the human brain in health and disease.