Scientists in Sweden have found a new stem cell in the adult brain that could help repair diseases and injury to the brain using new methods.
The cells can proliferate and create several different cell types – most importantly, they can develop into new brain cells.
Looking at brain tissue from biopsies, the scientists at Lund University found stem cells around small blood vessels in the brain that had not been identified before.
Its exact function is still not known, but the cell’s plastic properties suggest vast potential. A similar cell type has been found in some other organs where it can encourage regeneration of bone, muscle, adipose tissue and cartilage.
When looking at other organs, scientists have found clear evidence that such types of cells promote repair and wound healing.
Researchers suggested that such healing properties may also apply to the brain. The next step would be to control and aid stem cell self-healing characteristics to eventually perform therapies that are targeted to a particular area of the brain.
“Our findings show that the cell capacity is much larger than we originally thought, and that these cells are very versatile,” noted Gesine Paul-Visse, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Neuroscience at Lund University.
“Most interesting is their ability to form neuronal cells, but they can also be developed for other cell types. The results contribute to better understanding of how brain cell plasticity works and opens up new opportunities to exploit these very features,” added Paul-Visse.
“We hope that our findings may lead to a new and better understanding of the brain’s own repair mechanisms. Ultimately the goal is to strengthen these mechanisms and develop new treatments that can repair the diseased brain,” said Dr. Paul-Visse.
The research was published in the journal PLoS ONE.
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