MAY 02, 2019 08:48 PM PDT

Newborn brain cells, even at old age

WRITTEN BY: Nina Lichtenberg

Neurogenesis is the growth or development of new neural cells. One of the most heated debates in neuroscience is whether or not neurogenesis ceases once the brain stops developing in adolescence. Can adult brains make new neurons? Recently, a new study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience found that people can make new brain cells past adolescence well into old age.

Young neurons labeled red from a 68-year-old. Image credit: Llorens Lab

Last year, a study in Nature reported that this process dwindles by adolescence. This finding was surprising to the neuroscience community, especially those who dedicated their work to studying neurogenesis in the rodent hippocampus, a brain region involved in learning and memory. Indeed, most research on neurogenesis to date has been performed in rodents.

However, there were methodological issues with the current study. For example, in the Nature study, researchers examined human brain tissue that had been soaked in the fixative paraformaldehyde for months to years. Newborn neurons are typically identified by using fluorescent, or light emitting, markers that bind to a protein called doublecortin (DCX). Tissue fixation for more than a mere 48 hours can make it difficult for the markers to bind, and nearly impossible after 6 months of fixation.

When researchers used a shorter fixation time (24 hours) to preserve brain tissue from 13 deceased adults, ages 43 to 87, the dentate gyrus, part of the hippocampus, lit up with thousands of newborn cells. Interestingly, tissue from adults with Alzheimer's had 30% fewer newborn neurons than healthy donors of the same age, meaning that neurogenesis could help treat those with Alzheimer's and other related brain diseases.

Some scientists remain skeptical. They claim that DCX stain is an inadequate measure of young cells because the DCX protein is also present in mature cells. Llorens-Marti, lead author of the paper, however, says that her team used numerous proteins to ensure that the DCX cells were in fact young.

Yet, others are hopeful. Heather Cameron, a neuroscientist at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland, remains persuaded by the new work. Based on the "beauty of the data" in the new study, "I think we can all move forward pretty confidently in the knowledge that what we see in animals will be applicable in humans, she says. "Will this settle the debate? I'm not sure. Should it? Yes."

Learn more about neurogenesis from this TED talk by neuroscientist Sandrine Thuret:

Source: Science

About the Author
You May Also Like
DEC 11, 2019
Drug Discovery & Development
DEC 11, 2019
Peptide-Based Therapeutics Advances Alzheimer Disease Research
Affecting 44 million individuals globally, Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a form of dementia characterized by loss of brain cells, inflammation and vasc...
DEC 11, 2019
Neuroscience
DEC 11, 2019
Extreme athletic training tires out the brain, impairs decision-making
Excessive athletic training does some wear and tear on the body; but according to new research, it can also make the brain tired, leading to poor decision-making. In a paper recently publish...
DEC 11, 2019
Neuroscience
DEC 11, 2019
Autism May be Linked to an Immune Disorder
Until now, diagnosis for autism spectrum disorder have relied on behavioral assessments looking for symptoms including poor social and communication skills...
DEC 11, 2019
Drug Discovery & Development
DEC 11, 2019
Investigating a common therapeutic in ADHD treatment
Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a widespread condition with variable underlying causes. A common therapeutic, called methylphenidate, se...
DEC 11, 2019
Neuroscience
DEC 11, 2019
Reading, Hearing Language Connects Meaning to Same Region in the Brain
Scientists at the University of California Berkeley used improved functional MRI resolution to show that similar neural circuits in the same regions of the...
DEC 11, 2019
Cell & Molecular Biology
DEC 11, 2019
Newly IDed Biomarker Can Predict Compulsive Drinking
Lots of people drink alcohol, but not everyone develops a drinking problem. Researchers are starting to learn more about why that is....
Loading Comments...