Our brains are still hiding secrets. But a very important one has just been revealed. It has been proved that there are stem cells in the brain. Researchers from the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) say so. They exist, and they are in the hippocampus. Therefore, there is also a process of neurogenesis. What does this mean? It means that new neurons are created there throughout life. It turns out that diseases like ALS or Parkinson’s attack these stem cells. They are the ones that prevent new neurons from being generated.
Attacked by diseases
The director of the study is Maria Llorens-Martin. It took 11 years and the study of 48 adult brains, 15 of them healthy. The results were published in a scientific article in the specialized magazine Science. It is an important deepening of the understanding of the human brain. It helps to formulate regenerative techniques for neurodegenerative diseases.
What do Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), frontotemporal dementia have in common? They all attack the hippocampus. And they damage its ability to produce new neurons.
What if the sufferer’s brain could regain the ability to create new neurons? Some of the symptoms of these ailments could be attenuated. The existence of stem cells that generate new neurons was intuited. But their exact location was not known. That location is a cellular niche called the hippocampal neurogenic niche. The alterations in the production of new neurons depend on the functioning of this niche.
Shoring up the hippocampus
Neurogenesis undergoes changes throughout life. Its process slows down as a person ages. In older people, microglia cells do not function well. They are responsible for regulating the number and maturation of new neurons.
Since it was proven that there are stem cells in the brain, it is possible to improve prevention. A neurodegenerative disease could be detected earlier by attending to this brain region.
There are non-pharmacological strategies experimented with mice to combat related diseases. They include physical exercise and so-called environmental enrichment. Cognitive stimulation and social interaction are enhanced. They are effective before the onset of the disease, the biologist concludes.