Migrating stem cells possible new focus for stroke treatment

May 27, 2014

Two years ago, a new type of stem cell was discovered in the brain that has the capacity to form new cells. The same research group at Lund University in Sweden has now revealed that these stem cells, which are located in the outer blood vessel wall, appear to be involved in the brain reaction following a stroke.

The findings show that the cells, known as pericytes, drop out from the blood vessel, proliferate and migrate to the damaged brain area where they are converted into microglia cells, the brain's .

Pericytes are known to contribute to tissue repair in a number of organs, and the researchers believe that their reparative properties could also apply to the brain. The study shows for the first time that pericytes are directly involved in the reaction of the brain tissue after .

"Pericytes are a fascinating cell type with many different properties and found at high density in the brain. It was surprising that a pericyte subtype is so strongly activated after a stroke. The fact that pericytes can be converted into microglia, which have an important function in the brain after a stroke, was an unexpected finding that opens up a new possibility to influence inflammation associated with a stroke", said Gesine Paul-Visse, neurologist at Lund University and senior author of the study.

Using a bound to the pericytes, the researchers were able to track the cells' path to the damaged part of the brain. The migration takes place within a week after a stroke. When the cells reach the site of damage they are converted into microglia cells, the 'cleaners' of the central nervous system. Inflammation can, however, have both positive reparative effects and negative effects on the damaged tissue. The exact role of microglia in the regeneration after a stroke is not entirely clear, but we do know that pericytes play an important role in protecting the brain against disease and injury.

"We now need to elucidate how pericytes affect the brain's recovery following a stroke. Our findings put pericytes in focus as a new target for brain repair and future research will help us understand more about the 's own defence and repair mechanisms."

There is an urgent need for new drugs that can alleviate the harmful effects of a stroke as current treatment possibilities using thrombolysis are limited to the first hours following a stroke.

"Because inflammation following a stroke is an event that continues after the acute stage, we hope that targeting in the subacute phase after stroke, i.e. within a longer time window following the onset of stroke, may influence the outcome", said Gesine Paul-Visse.

Explore further: New stem cell found in the brain

Related Stories

New stem cell found in the brain

April 20, 2012

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have discovered a new stem cell in the adult brain. These cells can proliferate and form several different cell types - most importantly, they can form new brain cells. Scientists ...

New research findings on the brain's guardian cells

April 24, 2013

The central nervous system's mop-up crew, microglia, play an important role in protecting the brain against disease and injury. A research group at Lund University in Sweden has now developed a method that makes it possible ...

Recommended for you

New insights on how cocaine changes the brain

November 25, 2015

The burst of energy and hyperactivity that comes with a cocaine high is a rather accurate reflection of what's going on in the brain of its users, finds a study published November 25 in Cell Reports. Through experiments conducted ...

Can physical exercise enhance long-term memory?

November 25, 2015

Exercise can enhance the development of new brain cells in the adult brain, a process called adult neurogenesis. These newborn brain cells play an important role in learning and memory. A new study has determined that mice ...

Umbilical cells help eye's neurons connect

November 24, 2015

Cells isolated from human umbilical cord tissue have been shown to produce molecules that help retinal neurons from the eyes of rats grow, connect and survive, according to Duke University researchers working with Janssen ...

Brain connections predict how well you can pay attention

November 24, 2015

During a 1959 television appearance, Jack Kerouac was asked how long it took him to write his novel On The Road. His response – three weeks – amazed the interviewer and ignited an enduring myth that the book was composed ...


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.