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

Rare in-vivo study shows weak brain nodes have strong influence on memory network

June 20, 2018
Our ability to learn, remember, problem solve, and speak are all cognitive functions related to different parts of our brain. If researchers can identify how those brain parts communicate and exchange information with each ...

Powerful new approach helps understand molecular alterations in neurological disease

June 20, 2018
Neurological diseases are typically associated with a multitude of molecular changes. But out of these thousands of changes in gene expression, which ones are actually driving the disease? To answer this question, a team ...

A dual-therapy approach to boost motor recovery after a stroke

June 20, 2018
Paralysis of an arm and/or leg is one of the most common effects of a stroke. But thanks to research carried out by scientists at the Defitech Foundation Chair in Brain-Machine Interface and collaborators, stroke victims ...

New technique fine-tunes treatment for severe epilepsy cases

June 20, 2018
One of three epilepsy patients experience no relief from drugs and are candidates for surgery. An advance by researchers at Yale and the Cleveland Clinic will enable surgeons to more precisely target areas of the brain causing ...

Scientists unravel DNA code behind rare neurologic disease

June 20, 2018
Scientists conducting one of the largest full DNA analyses of a rare disease have identified a gene mutation associated with a perplexing brain condition that blinds and paralyzes patients.

Absence epilepsy—when the brain is like 'an orchestra without a conductor'

June 20, 2018
At first, the teacher described her six-year-old student as absentminded, a daydreamer. The boy was having difficulty paying attention in class. As the teacher watched the boy closely, she realized that he was not daydreaming. ...

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.