The human brain is very complex. We all know that the brain has cells like any other part of our body. We know that the brain has specific cells called neurons, but did you know the brain also has “breeder cells”? According to ScienceDaily, “They secrete substances that boost the numbers and strength of critical brain-based immune cells believed to play a vital role in brain health.” This information is very important for understanding brain stem cells and ultimately brain stem transplants. This information is vitally important for good brain health.
Many scientists believe these cells are responsible for repairing damaged brain cells by becoming part of the circuits which have been eroded by injury or degenerate brain diseases. This new study published in Nature Neuroscience studied a different process for these brain stem cells.
What they found was, “Transplanting neural stem cells into experimental animals’ brains shows signs of being able to speed recovery from stroke and possibly neurodegenerative disease as well,” said Tony Wyss-Coray, PhD, professor of neurology and neurological sciences in the medical school and senior research scientist at the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System. “Why this technique works is far from clear, though, because actually neural stem cells don’t engraft well.”
Neural stems cells are not present in all parts of the brain but where they are present they can endure for years. Chemo and radiation causes memory loss in children, it is also thought that transplanting stem cells can improve memory in Alzheimer’s patients. Certain brain cells called microglia are also responsible for locating damaged brain cells and regenerating damaged cells; they are part of the brains immune system cells. When the brain cells are damaged, the microglia travel to the area to secrete a substance and then cells called lysosomes, rush in and eat away at the debris. The researchers gave the analogy of a garbage disposal for the lysosomes. Microglia also secretes a substance that promotes healthy cells.
Unfortunately, microglia can also do some damage of their own by devouring the healthy cell which is believed to be happening in Parkinson’s Disease, or they don’t clean up as much debris as they should resulting in the plaque associated with Alzheimer’s Disease.
The researchers did animal experiments in which they remarked that there were abundant microglias in two areas of the brain at a site where new neurons are formed. They then injected neural progenitor cells or NPCs into places where normal microglias are not present. They found that NPCs produced microglia in those areas of the brain as well.
The experiments are a breakthrough for curing degenerative diseases; scientists will one day know how to reprogram the microglia.
For a complete description of the experiments click here.