Researchers create new nerve cells in living mammals

Posted Feb 27 2014 in Brain science; genetics

US researchers have succeeded in creating new nerve cells in the brains and spinal cords of living mammals, without the need for stem cell transplants.

They believe this could be harnessed to repair traumatic brain injuries – one of the causes of post-traumatic epilepsy.

It could also be used to regenerate cells following spinal cord damage.

The researchers, from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, used a biological substance to promote gene expression in rodent brains, turning common non-neuronal cells called astrocytes into neuroblasts.

Afterwards, the mice were given valproic acid – a drug that has been used to treat epilepsy for more than 50 years – to promote the maturation of these cells into fully-fledged neurons.

“Our results indicate that the astrocytes may be ideal targets for in vivo reprogramming,” commented senior author Chun-Li Zhang.

However, the researchers stressed it is too soon to know whether the neurons created by their studies resulted in any functional improvements.

Posted by Bob Jones

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