Harnessing the Power of Glia and Stem Cells
Findings underscore the importance of the fast-growing fields of glial and stem cell research
CHICAGO — Research presented today demonstrates scientists’ evolving understanding of the role of glial cells and the utility of stem cells in the study neurological conditions. Glia are non-neuronal cells that support and protect neurons, but new findings reveal how these cells also influence brain activity and can be reprogrammed to generate new neurons in the diseased brain. New research also shows how scientists are using stem cells to create a model of Down syndrome that allows them to better study the disease. The research was presented at Neuroscience 2015, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health. These findings have potential implications for the treatment of neurological disorders, such as addiction, Down syndrome, and stroke.
Today’s new findings show that:
- Increasing the expression of a single protein, NeuroD1, in the brain tissue of stroke-injured mice can reprogram glial cells to become functional neurons (Yuchen Chen, abstract 193.07, see attached summary).
- New neurons can be generated from glia in the brains of healthy young mice by increasing the joint expression of two proteins, Ascl1 and Sox 2 (Sophie Peron, abstract 193.02, see attached summary).
- Disruptions in the release of the neurotransmitter glutamate from glial cells called astrocytes can lead to compulsive behavior in rats, including behaviors associated with addiction and OCD (Evan Hess, abstract 411.20, see attached summary).
- Using a Down syndrome tridimensional mini-brain model (cerebral organoids) generated from human stem cells, researchers reveal that an extra copy of chromosome 21 leads to aberrant protein expression (Tristan McClure-Begley, abstract 202.09, see attached summary).
“These exciting findings are changing our understanding of the roles, importance, and potential uses of glia and stem cells,” said Carol Marchetto, PhD, of the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences. “The molecular biology of the brain is incredibly complex, and we need as many tools as possible to unravel that complexity.”
This research was supported by national funding agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, as well as other private and philanthropic organizations. Find out more about the latest research involving glial and stem cells at BrainFacts.org.