Researchers find key players for building and repairing the brain

May 16, 2018, Canadian Association for Neuroscience

Research by Dr. Freda Miller and her team at the Hospital for Sick Children and the University of Toronto has determined how brain stem cells and the environment they live within collaborate to build brain circuits during development, discoveries that have led to a better understanding of neurodevelopmental disorders in children. The Miller lab and her basic research collaborators work closely with their clinical colleagues to harness this information and develop new approaches for treating brain injury. These results were presented at the 2018 Canadian Neuroscience Meeting, in Vancouver, May 15th, 2018.

During development, the mammalian brain starts life as nothing more than a collection of that then must generate the neurons and glial that form the complex network of connections required for proper brain functioning and cognition. One cause of neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder is thought to be the failure of stem cells to correctly build the brain. Dr. Miller's team investigates how stem cells accomplish this task, and to understand how this process goes wrong in neurodevelopmental disorders. Since these same brain stem cells also persist into adulthood, this has led to the idea that it might be possible to manipulate these brain-resident stem cells to behave as they did during development, and in so doing to promote brain repair. Importantly, recent work from Dr. Miller and her collaborators suggests that this may indeed be the case, thereby identifying a new approach for treating the damaged or degenerating human brain.

"Neural stem cells are like "parent" cells that generate their children, the neurons and glia that build brain circuits, in a precisely controlled fashion in response to signals from their environment. These signals ensure that there are enough stem cells to build the brain, to make the correct amounts of neurons and at the right time and place in the developing brain, and that some stem cells persist into adulthood where they can participate in brain repair. If we can understand what these signals are, and how stem cells respond under normal circumstances, then that information will not only allow us to understand what happens in such as but will also provide us with the information we need to activate stem cells in the mature brain to promote repair" says Freda Miller.

To understand and their environment, Dr. Miller is using approaches that range from stem cell biology to transcriptomics and proteomics that identify the proteins and RNA molecules that enable stem cells to build the brain and computational modeling, with the idea that understanding brain development and repair requires an interdisciplinary and highly collaborative approach.

"The key to doing the best science is to ask big questions such as "how do you built functional brain circuits during development" or "how can you repair an injured " and then to seek out collaborators who are willing to work with you to answer those questions in an integrative and interdisciplinary fashion. This type of high-level collaboration is equally important when your discovery research unveils a potentially novel therapeutic strategy. This collaborative approach has been the key to all of our major discoveries" says Freda Miller.

Explore further: Researchers clarify the identity of brain stem cells

Related Stories

Researchers clarify the identity of brain stem cells

May 4, 2018
The human nervous system is a complex structure that sends electrical signals from the brain to the rest of the body, enabling us to move and think. Unfortunately, when brain cells are damaged by trauma or disease they don't ...

Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

February 8, 2018
Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons ...

Creation of new brain cells may be limited, mouse study shows

February 7, 2018
It used to be that everyone knew that you are born with all the brain cells you'll ever have. Then UC San Francisco's Arturo Alvarez-Buylla, Ph.D., and other neuroscientists discovered in birds and mice that stem cells in ...

Diabetes drug metformin makes brain cells grow

July 5, 2012
The widely used diabetes drug metformin comes with a rather unexpected and alluring side effect: it encourages the growth of new neurons in the brain. The study reported in the July 6th issue of Cell Stem Cell also finds ...

Brain stimulation plus adult neural stem cells may speed stroke recovery

January 24, 2018
Electrically stimulating implanted adult stem cells may someday speed stroke recovery, according to preliminary research presented at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference 2018, a world premier ...

Recommended for you

Study suggests brainwave link between disparate disorders

May 24, 2018
A brainwave abnormality could be a common link between Parkinson's disease, neuropathic pain, tinnitus and depression—a link that authors of a new study suggest could lead to treatment for all four conditions.

In a break with dogma, myelin boosts neuron growth in spinal cord injuries

May 23, 2018
Recovery after severe spinal cord injury is notoriously fraught, with permanent paralysis often the result. In recent years, researchers have increasingly turned to stem cell-based therapies as a potential method for repairing ...

Memory molecule limits plasticity by calibrating calcium

May 23, 2018
The brain has an incredible capacity to support a lifetime of learning and memory. Each new experience fundamentally alters the connections between cells in the brain called synapses. To accommodate synaptic alterations, ...

New type of vertigo identified

May 23, 2018
Neurologists have identified a new type of vertigo with no known cause, according to a study published in the May 23, 2018, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Study confirms that men and women tend to adopt different navigation strategies

May 23, 2018
When navigating in a known environment, men prefer to take shortcuts to reach their destination more quickly, while women tend to use routes they know. This is according to Alexander Boone of UC Santa Barbara in the US who ...

Changes to specific MicroRNA involved in development of Lou Gehrig's disease

May 23, 2018
A new Tel Aviv University study identifies a previously unknown mechanism involved in the development of Lou Gehrig's disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The research focuses on a specific microRNA whose levels ...

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.