When adult brain cells are injured, they revert to an embryonic state, according to new findings published in the April 15, 2020 issue of Nature by researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues elsewhere. The scientists report that in their newly adopted immature state, the cells become capable of re-growing new connections that, under the right conditions, can help to restore lost function.
Repairing damage to the brain and spinal cord may be medical science's most daunting challenge. Until relatively recently, it seemed an impossible task. The new study lays out a "transcriptional roadmap of regeneration in the adult brain."
Using the incredible tools of modern neuroscience, molecular genetics, virology and computational power, we were able for the first time to identify how the entire set of genes in an adult brain cell resets itself in order to regenerate. This gives us fundamental insight into how, at a transcriptional level, regeneration happens." Mark Tuszynski, MD, PhD, senior author, professor of neuroscience and director of the Translational Neuroscience Institute at UC San Diego School of Medicine
Using a mouse model, Tuszynski and colleagues discovered that after injury, mature neurons in adult brains revert back to an embryonic state. "Who would have thought," said Tuszynski. "Only 20 years ago, we were thinking of the adult brain as static, terminally differentiated, fully established and immutable."
But work by Fred "Rusty" Gage, PhD, president and a professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and an adjunct professor at UC San Diego, and others found that new brain cells are continually produced in the hippocampus and subventricular zone, replenishing these brain regions throughout life.
"Our work further radicalizes this concept," Tuszynski said. "The brain's ability to repair or replace itself is not limited to just two areas. Instead, when an adult brain cell of the cortex is injured, it reverts (at a transcriptional level) to an embryonic cortical neuron. And in this reverted, far less mature state, it can now regrow axons if it is provided an environment to grow into. In my view, this is the most notable feature of the study and is downright shocking." Related Stories
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