New type of stem cell found in the brain
30 April 2012
Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have discovered a new
stem cell in the adult brain. These cells can proliferate and form
several different cell types and, most importantly, they can form new
brain cells. Scientists hope to take advantage of the finding to develop
methods to heal and repair disease and injury in the brain.
Analyzing brain tissue from biopsies, the researchers for the
first time found stem cells located around small blood vessels in
the brain. The cell's specific function is still unclear, but its
plastic properties suggest great potential.
"A similar cell type has been identified in several other organs
where it can promote regeneration of muscle, bone, cartilage and
adipose tissue," said Patrik Brundin, MD, PhD, Jay Van Andel Endowed
Chair in Parkinson's Research at Van Andel Research Institute
(VARI), Head of the Neuronal Survival Unit at Lund University and
senior author of the study.
In other organs, researchers have shown clear evidence that these
types of cells contribute to repair and wound healing. Scientists
suggest that the curative properties may also apply to the brain.
The next step is to try to control and enhance stem cell
self-healing properties with the aim of carrying out targeted
therapies to a specific 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," said
Gesine Paul-Visse, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Neuroscience at
Lund University and the study's primary author. "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."
The study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, is of interest to a
broad spectrum of brain research. Future possible therapeutic
targets range from neurodegenerative diseases to stroke.
"We hope that our findings may lead to a new and better
understanding of the brain's own repair mechanisms," said Dr. Paul-Visse.
"Ultimately the goal is to strengthen these mechanisms and develop
new treatments that can repair the diseased brain."
The study is available at:
The Neuronal Survival Unit, Faculty of Medicine, Lund
The research at Neuronal Survival Unit, Lund University, Sweden
is focused on pathogenetic mechanisms and pharmacological treatment
in cell and animal models of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.
We also study cell replacement therapy with stem cells in attempts
to repair brains in animal models of Parkinson's diseases. The
group's mission is to understand neurodegenerative diseases and
develop new therapies that are of benefit to patients and their
The Van Andel Research Institute
Established by Jay and Betty Van Andel in 1996, Van Andel
Institute is an independent research organization dedicated to
preserving, enhancing and expanding the frontiers of medical
science, and to achieving excellence in education by probing
fundamental issues of education and the learning process. This is
accomplished through the work of over 200 researchers in more than
20 on-site laboratories and in collaborative partnerships that span
the globe. www.vai.org