Neural Stem Cells In The Brain Produce New Stem Cells Under Stress!
It is a scientifically proven fact that neurogenesis or the production of neurons (nerve cells) from neural stem cells is a continuous process that occurs in the hippocampus of the brain throughout the adulthood of an individual.
Hippocampus is the part of the brain responsible for learning, memory and emotions.
A new study, first of its kind, by a team of researchers headed by Alex Dranovsky from the Columbia University medical centre has revealed that apart from generating neurons, the neural stem cells in the hippocampus also produce new stem cells under stressful conditions.
The brain stocks up the neural stem cells under unfavorable conditions and produce neurons from them once the conditions turn favorable indicating that the hippocampus can adapt to environmental stress.
The study was conducted on mice models which were divided into 2 groups. The first group was placed in isolation and the second group in an enriched, normal environment.
With the help of lineage studies (a method that detects the stem cells from their birth till their differentiation into specific cell type), the team members identified the proportion of neural stem cells that produced neurons.
Both the groups showed strikingly opposite results.
The group that was isolated produced and piled up neural stem cells but not neurons. The other group which was not socially isolated generated more number of neurons but not many neural stem cells. Almost 70,000 neurons were newly formed in the latter group.
According to Dr. Dranovsky, this study suggests that the functioning of neural stem cells in the brain changes with the environmental stress. While favorable conditions are suitable for the production of neurons, unfavorable or stressed situations lead to the stocking up of neural stem cells.
The next target of the team is to check if this response of hippocampus is limited to social isolation or stress in general.
Moreover, the long-term goal of the researchers is to identify the process through which the neural stem cells can be instructed to generate more neural stem cells and/or neurons so that they can be used in the neuronal replacement therapy in neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.