Scientists identify new stem cell activity in human brain, raise questions of how it develops and evolves

September 28, 2011

Researchers at Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center have identified a new pathway of stem cell activity in the brain that represents potential targets of brain injuries affecting newborns. The recent study, which raises new questions of how the brain evolves, is published in the current issue of Nature, one of the world's most cited scientific journals.

Nader Sanai, MD, director of Barrow's Brain Tumor Research Center, led this study, which is the first developmental study of human in a region of the brain called the subventricular zone, the tissue structure in which reside. Also participating in the study were researchers from University of California San Francisco and the University of Valencia in Spain.

The findings revealed that there is a pathway of young migrating neurons targeting the of the human brain in the first few months of life. After the first year of life, the subventricular zone of the brain slows down, tapering production of new by the time a child is 18-months and then to nearly zero by age two. This revelation settles conflicting prior reports that suggested that human neural stem cell cells remain highly active into adulthood.

"In the first few months of life, we identified streams of newly-generated cells from the subventricular portion of the brain moving toward the ," says Dr. Sanai. "The existence of this new pathway, which has no known counterpart in all other studied vertebrates, raises questions about the mechanics of how the human brain develops and has evolved."

Researchers believe this study holds important implications for the understanding of neonatal that can cause death or devastating, life-long brain damage. These conditions include germinal matrix hemorrhages, the most common type of brain hemorrhage that occurs in infants; and perinatal hypoxic – ischaemic injuries, exposure to low oxygen and decreased blood flow that can lead to diseases such as cerebral palsy and seizure disorders.

"The first year of human life has a window of vulnerability, as well as tremendous opportunity, for the brain," says Dr. Sanai. "It's a period of incredible growth, organization, and flexibility, as fresh neural connections are created, broken, and remade. A better understanding of how things can go wrong in that critical period could ultimately improve the chances that things will go right."

Explore further: Signal explains why site of origin affects fate of postnatal neural stem cells

Related Stories

Recommended for you

New 'Tissue Velcro' could help repair damaged hearts

August 28, 2015

Engineers at the University of Toronto just made assembling functional heart tissue as easy as fastening your shoes. The team has created a biocompatible scaffold that allows sheets of beating heart cells to snap together ...

Fertilization discovery: Do sperm wield tiny harpoons?

August 26, 2015

Could the sperm harpoon the egg to facilitate fertilization? That's the intriguing possibility raised by the University of Virginia School of Medicine's discovery that a protein within the head of the sperm forms spiky filaments, ...

Research identifies protein that regulates body clock

August 26, 2015

New research into circadian rhythms by researchers at the University of Toronto Mississauga shows that the GRK2 protein plays a major role in regulating the body's internal clock and points the way to remedies for jet lag ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.