FEB 13, 2018 07:41 AM PST

How Brain Cells are Born

When the brain is developing, stem cells, the building blocks of everything, are actively producing cellular offspring in the form of neurons. It's a fascinating process, and for the first time neuroscientists have been able to document it and track what the newborn neurons go on to do.
 
It's a common belief that once an embryo has finished developing, all the brain cells that will ever be, are already present. That's not actually true. Neurogenesis, the process where new neurons are formed, has been the focus of brain research for decades. It's now accepted that neurogenesis in adult humans happens in the hippocampus. This region of the brain is responsible for storing memories, so neurogenesis is needed for this task.
 
Researchers at the University of Zurich was published recently that shows the mechanism of how neural stem cells divide and how the neurons that come from this process function in the adult brain. The team used a mouse model; however, the process is similar to what happens in the human hippocampus.
 
The research was published in the journal Science and conducted in the lab of Sebastian Jessberger, who is a professor in the Brain Research Institute of the University of Zurich. To follow the process of stem cells dividing and then observe how the neurons created will operate, the team used in vivo 2-photon imaging as well as a genetic labeling protocol to keep track of which cells were which. Over the course of the study, the researchers could see each time a stem cell divided and then follow the nerve cells that came from that for up to two months. The research revealed that the stem cells only split for a few cycles before they matured into neurons. As we age, the number of stem cells decreases, and the study is the first to show a possible reason for that decline.
 
Dr. Jessberger stressed that this research and its conclusions came about because of a team of experts from several different fields. He explained, "In the past, it was deemed technically impossible to follow single cell stem cells in the brain over time given the deep localization of the hippocampus in the brain. We were fortunate that a group of collaborators, including Fritjof Helmchen from the Brain Research Institute and David Jörg and Benjamin Simons from the University of Cambridge, joined efforts to bring together their expertise in deep brain imaging and theoretical modeling, which allowed us to obtain and understand our data."
 
In neuroscience, understanding stem cells and how they behave is crucial for trying to find treatments for neurological diseases. Stem cells are the gold standard since they are totipotent—capable of producing any other kind of cell necessary for embryonic development. Capturing the process in real time, as the video below shows, and understanding their mechanism is a significant step forward in the search for treatments for neurological diseases. Jessberger wrote, "In the future, we hope that we will be able to use neural stem cells for brain repair -- for example for diseases such as cognitive aging, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease or major depression." Check out the video for a look at cells dividing.
 
 
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
NOV 01, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
NOV 01, 2018
Researchers Link Parkinson's Disease and the Appendix
When a person's appendix is removed early in life, it reduces their chances of getting Parkinson's disease....
NOV 05, 2018
Neuroscience
NOV 05, 2018
How does Brain's GPS work?
Understanding the brain cells involved in decoding and encoding naviagtional information....
NOV 06, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
NOV 06, 2018
Mapping the Brain
The brain still holds many mysteries, but scientists are finding ways to learn more about how it works....
NOV 06, 2018
Cannabis Sciences
NOV 06, 2018
The Role of Endocannabinoids in Orgasm
Now that I've got your attention, we can talk science now. Yes, there is actually relatively new study which measures levels of endocannabinoids in blo...
DEC 15, 2018
Technology
DEC 15, 2018
Noninvasive Technology Detects Neural Activity
In as study published in Light: Science and Applications, noninvasive technology may now detect nerve cell firing based on shape changes. The method was de...
DEC 24, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
DEC 24, 2018
Insight Into the Cause of Huntington's Disease, and a Potential Treatment
There is no treatment for Huntington's disease at this time, and the scientists hope that this work will lead to one....
Loading Comments...