April 24, 2006
Contact: Melissa Campbell
Phone: (973) 972-4564
Study Reveals Brain’s Capacity for Self-Repair
Neural Stem/Progenitor Cells Key in Creating New Brain Cells
NEWARK—Researchers at UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School have discovered that the brain has a broader capacity for repair than previously thought. While the extent of repair is limited, researchers have discovered the molecular mechanism underlying this regenerative response - an understanding that may lead towards developing new therapeutics to boost repair of the injured or diseased brain.
Steve Levison, PhD, a Professor of neuroscience at UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, co-authored the paper with colleagues from Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine and the San Raffaele Telethon Institute for Gene Therapy in Milan, Italy.
"We have discovered targetable molecules that are involved in stimulating brain repair," said Levison. "These molecules coordinate a doubling in the numbers of resident neural stem cells, that in turn produce new neurons, myelin forming oligodendrocytes and astrocytes (support cells). Importantly, we’re beginning to understand how to repair the brain from those stem cells that are already residents of the nervous system, meaning that transplanting new brain cells derived from embryonic stem cells may not be necessary to cure some brain diseases."
The findings appear in the April 19, 2006 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience.
These discoveries have important implications for treating perinatal brain injury related conditions such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy and developmental delay as well as other brain diseases where cell replacement therapy would be of benefit, such as stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, traumatic brain injury or multiple sclerosis.
The study reveals that a neonatal brain injury triggers an expansion of the numbers of resident precursors residing within the subventricular zone or "brain marrow." This regenerative response is choreographed by several distinct molecules: Notch 1, gp130 and EGFR. In a companion paper, published earlier this month in Neuroscience, the official journal of the International Brain Research Organization, this same group shows that subsequent to the expansion of the neural stem/progenitor cells, there is production of new neurons as well as new oligodendrocytes.
In essence, these papers turn the longstanding dogma about the brain's inability to repair itself, literally, on its head.
To arrange an interview with Dr. Levison, call Melissa Campbell at (973) 972-4564.