Researchers have discovered a previously unknown brain cell-type that directly instructs stem cells to produce new neurons. Although the work is still in it’s early stages, the research implies that the adult brain is capable of restoring itself following injury.
The new cells have been found in the subventricular zone of the adult (mouse) brain, and they release an enzyme called choline acetyltransferase (ChAT), which eventually goes on to help make acetylcholine.
By ‘accelerating’ and ‘decelerating’ the impulse frequency of these newly discovered neurons, they observed clear changes in the production of neural stem cells in the brain.
“We have been working to determine how neurogenesis is sustained in the adult brain. It is very unexpected and exciting to uncover this hidden gateway, a neural circuit that can directly instruct the stem cells to make more immature neurons,”
– Chay Kuo M.D. – Lead Researcher, Duke University, Durham, NC
It is hoped that by understanding these repair pathways, it will eventually become possible to rebuild the brain following damage.
The work was published in Nature Neuroscience at the beginning of June this year.
1. Paez-Gonzalez, P., Asrican, B., Rodriguez, E. & Kuo, C. T. Identification of distinct ChAT+ neurons and activity-dependent control of postnatal SVZ neurogenesis. Nat Neurosci advance online publication, (2014).