Frequent alcohol drinking kills new brain cells in adults, females are more vulnerable

November 9, 2017, University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Researchers from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston recently discovered that alcohol killed the stem cells residing in adult mouse brains. Because the brain stems cells create new nerve cells and are important to maintaining normal cognitive function, this study possibly opens a door to combating chronic alcoholism.

The researchers also found that in key of adult mice respond differently to alcohol exposure, and they show for the first time that these changes are different for females and males. The findings are available in Stem Cell Reports.

Chronic alcohol abuse can cause severe damage and neurodegeneration. Scientists once believed that the number of nerve cells in the adult brain was fixed early in life and the best way to treat alcohol-induced brain damage was to protect the remaining nerve cells.

"The discovery that the adult brain produces stem cells that create new nerve cells provides a new way of approaching the problem of alcohol-related changes in the brain," said Dr. Ping Wu, UTMB professor in the department of neuroscience and cell biology. "However, before the new approaches can be developed, we need to understand how alcohol impacts the brain stem cells at different stages in their growth, in different brain regions and in the brains of both males and females."

In the study, Wu and her colleagues used a cutting-edge technique that allows them to tag brain stem cells and observe how they migrate and develop into specialized nerve cells over time to study the impact of long-term alcohol consumption on them.

Wu said that chronic alcohol drinking killed most brain stem cells and reduced the production and development of new .

The researchers found that the effects of repeated alcohol consumption differed across brain regions. The brain region most susceptible to the effects of alcohol was one of two brain regions where new brain cells are created in adults.

They also noted that female mice showed more severe deficits than males. The females displayed more severe intoxication behaviors and more greatly reduced the pool of stem in the subventricular zone.

Using this model, scientists expect to learn more about how alcohol interacts with brain , which will ultimately lead to a clearer understanding of how best to treat and cure alcoholism.

Other authors include UTMB's Erica McGrath, Junling Gao, Yong Fang Kuo, Tiffany Dunn, Moniqua Ray, Kelly Dineley, Kathryn Cunningham and Bhupendra Kaphalia.

Explore further: Distant brain regions selectively recruit stem cells

Related Stories

Distant brain regions selectively recruit stem cells

June 16, 2017
Stem cells persist in the adult mammalian brain and generate new neurons throughout life. A research group at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel reports in the current issue of Science that long-distance brain connections ...

Neural stem cells steered by electric fields in rat brain

July 11, 2017
Electric fields can be used to guide neural stem cells transplanted into the brain towards a specific location. The research, published July 11 in the journal Stem Cell Reports, opens possibilities for effectively guiding ...

Scientists uncover how Zika virus causes microcephaly

February 17, 2017
A multidisciplinary team from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston has uncovered the mechanisms that the Zika virus uses to alter brain development. These findings are detailed in Stem Cell Reports.

Findings reveal effect of embryonic neural stem cell development on later nerve regeneration capacity

March 1, 2017
Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's, but also strokes or other types of traumatic brain damage, result in the death of nerve cells in the brain. Since the mammalian brain is capable of replacing ...

First evidence of ischemia-induced multipotent stem cells in post-stroke human brain

May 3, 2017
Researchers have shown that following a stroke-induced ischemic injury to the human brain, stem cells are produced that have the potential to differentiate and mature to form neurons that can help repair the damage to the ...

Recommended for you

What prevents remyelination? New stem cell research reveals a critical culprit

December 18, 2018
New research on remyelination, the spontaneous regeneration of the brain's fatty insulator that keeps neurons communicating, could lead to a novel approach to developing treatments for multiple sclerosis (MS) and other inflammatory ...

Gene variant found in brain complicit in MS onset

December 18, 2018
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease affecting the function of the central nervous system. Up to now, most of the 230 genetic variants associated with the disease have been linked to changes in immune cells. However, ...

Biologists identify promising drug for ALS treatment

December 18, 2018
A drug typically used to treat hepatitis could slow the progression of ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, according to new research by University of Alberta scientists.

Communication between neural networks

December 18, 2018
The brain is organized into a super-network of specialized networks of nerve cells. For such a brain architecture to function, these specialized networks – each located in a different brain area – need to be able to communicate ...

Tiny implantable device short-circuits hunger pangs, aids weight loss

December 17, 2018
More than 700 million adults and children worldwide are obese, according to a 2017 study that called the growing number and weight-related health problems a "rising pandemic."

Discovery of a novel way synapses can regulate neuronal circuits

December 17, 2018
The fundamental process of information transfer from neuron to neuron occurs through a relay of electrical and chemical signaling at the synapse, the junction between neurons. Electrical signals, called action potentials, ...

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.