New Neurons For the Brain


image: Neuronal transplants (blue) connect with host neurons (yellow) in the adult mouse brain in a highly specific manner, rebuilding neural networks lost upon injury. Credit: © Sofia Grade (LMU/Helmholtz Zentrum München)
Transplanted embryonic nerve cells can functionally integrate into damaged neural networks.

By Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology | NAUTILUS

When it comes to recovering from insult, the adult human brain has very little ability to compensate for nerve-cell loss. Biomedical researchers and clinicians are therefore exploring the possibility of using transplanted nerve cells to replace neurons that have been irreparably damaged as a result of trauma or disease. However, it is not clear whether transplanted neurons can be integrated sufficiently, to result in restored function of the lesioned network. Now researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried, the Ludwig Maximilians University Munich, and the Helmholtz Zentrum München have demonstrated that, in mice, transplanted embryonic nerve cells can indeed be incorporated into an existing network and correctly carry out the tasks of damaged cells originally found in that region.

Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, but also stroke or certain injuries lead to a loss of brain cells. The mammalian brain can replace these cells only in very limited areas, making the loss in most cases a permanent one. The transplantation of young nerve cells into an affected network of patients, for example with Parkinson’s disease, allow for the possibility of a medical improvement of clinical symptoms. However, if the nerve cells transplanted in such studies help to overcome existing network gaps or whether they actually replace the lost cells, remained unknown.

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