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Neural stem cells move to damaged areas of brain after injury

Adult mammalian brain has potential to heal itself, says U-M scientist

BOSTON, Mass. Primitive neural cells in the brains of laboratory rats respond to acute brain injuries by moving to the injured area and attempting to form new neurons, according to University of Michigan neurologist Jack M. Parent, M.D. Understanding how this self-repair mechanism works could someday help physicians reduce brain damage caused by strokes or neurodegenerative diseases.

In a presentation here today at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting, Jack M. Parent, M.D., an assistant professor of neurology in the U-M Medical School, described results from a series of his experiments with laboratory rats. Prolonged epileptic seizures or strokes in these rats caused neural precursor cells called neuroblasts cells midway in development between a stem cell and a fully developed neuron to multiply and form neural chains that migrated across the brain to the site of injury.

Whats fascinating is that neuroblasts responded similarly to both types of brain injury, says Parent. Theres some cue in common that activates their development and growth. We dont know what it is, but we are looking for candidate molecules growth factors or neurotrophic factors that stimulate the proliferation and migration of precursor cells.

Parent cautions that, while his results are intriguing, many years of research at the molecular level and in animals will be necessary before human clinical trials could even be considered. Its not enough to stimulate the development of neuroblasts in human brains and hope they do what you want them to do, Parent says. There can be harmful consequences.

Until recently, scientists believed the mammalian adult central nervous system the brain and spinal cord was incapable of generating new neurons from adult stem cells, a process known as neurogenesis. But now scientists know that precursor ce
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Contact: Sally Pobojewski
pobo@umich.edu
734-615-6912
University of Michigan Health System
18-Feb-2002


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