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Weizmann Institute suggests that immune cells help to maintain cognition and brain cell renewal

as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, glaucoma, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and the nerve degeneration that results from trauma or stroke.

In their earlier research, Schwartz and her team provided evidence to suggest that T cells directed against CNS components do not attack the brain but instead, recruit the help of the brain's own resident immune cells to safely fight off any outflow of toxic substances from damaged nerve tissues.

In the present study, the scientists showed that the same immune cells may also be key players in the body's maintenance of the normal healthy brain. Their findings led them to suspect that the primary role of the immune system's T cells (which recognize brain proteins) is to enable the "neurogenic" brain regions (such as the hippocampus) to form new nerve cells, and maintaining the individual's cognitive capacity. The research team led by Prof. Schwartz, included graduate students Yaniv Ziv, Noga Ron and Oleg Butovsky, and in collaboration with former graduate student Dr. Jonathan Kipnis and with Dr. Hagit Cohen of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva.

It was reported before that rats kept in an environment rich with mental stimulations and opportunities for physical activity exhibit increased formation of new nerve cells in the hippocampus. In the present work, the scientists showed for the first time that formation of these new nerve cells following environmental enrichment is linked to local immune activity. To find out whether T cells play a role in this process they repeated the experiment using mice with severe combined immune deficiency (scid mice), which lack T cells and other important immune cells. Significantly fewer new cells were formed in those mice. On repeating the same experiment, this time with mice possessing all of the important immune cells except for T cells, they again found impairment of brain-cell renewal, confirming that the missing T cells were an essential
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Contact: Elizabeth McCrocklin
EMcCrocklin@jgordonassociates.com
212-871-3020
American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science
15-Jan-2006


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