Prof. Dr. Magdalena Götz, Institute of Stem Cell Research of the Helmholtz Zentrum München and Ludwig Maximilians-University Munich, and her colleagues have taken another step towards the understanding of processes for substituting injured brain cells after accidents. The researchers found that stem cells that originate from supporting cells can evolve again into new nerve cells.
Most cells in the human brain are not nerve cells, but supporting cells (glial cells). They serve as a framework for nerve cells and play an important role in the wound reaction that occurs with injuries to the brain. However, what these ‘reactive glial cells’ in the brains of mice and men originate from, and which cells they evolve into, was unknown.
Now, the study group of Prof. Dr. Magdalena Götz is able to show that after injury, these reactive glial cells in the brains of mice restart their cell division. They then become stem cells from which nerve cells can form yet again under favorable cell culture conditions.
With this came the ground-breaking proof that, in an injured region of the brain, adult neural stem cells exist that could later serve as a source of new nerve cells.
In her study group, Magdalena Götz examines the molecular bases of cerebral development, in particular in the cerebral cortex. Götz proved in earlier investigations that glial brain cells can act as stem cells, and nerve cells emerge from glial cells. She also pointed out which factors play a role in the cross-over from glial to neural cells.
"Now, thanks to these results, the distant goal of being able to use the processes therapeutically is getting a little closer," stresses Götz.
Illustration: German Research for Environmental Health.
German Research Center for Environmental Health (03/11/08)
Science Daily (03/16/08)
Abstract (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 105, No. 9, 3581-3586 (03/04/08))