A new type of stem cell has been discovered in the brain by research scientists at Lund University in Sweden. These cells have the ability to proliferate in culture and renew themselves, but the can also differentiate into several different types of brain-specific cell types. They can also form new brain cells and scientists hope that they develop methods to use these cells to design treatments that can potentially repair disease and injury in the brain.
This new stem cells was found when workers in the laboratory of Patrik Brundin analyzed biopsies from the brain. These tissues had stem cells located around small blood vessels in the brain. While the physiological function of these cells are still presently unclear, their ability to form several different cell types in the brain suggests that they might help rebuild the brain after specific traumas or help remodel the brain in response to learning and adaptation to new conditions.
Patrik Brundin, M.D., Ph.D., who is the 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, said “A similar cell type has been identified in several other organs where it can promote regeneration of muscle, bone, cartilage and adipose tissue.”
Such blood vessel-associated cells are usually a population of mesenchymal stem cells, and in other organs, these cells contribute to repair and wound healing. Brundin and his colleagues think that these curative properties might also apply to these cells in the brain. The next step is to try to control and enhance stem cell-mediated healing properties, and then manipulate these cells so that they can be used for certain therapies in 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.”
This study, was published in the journal PLoS ONE, and 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.”