Penn researchers discover the source of new neurons in brain hippocampus

March 28, 2019

PHILADELPHIA -- It was once believed that mammals were born with the entire supply of neurons they would have for a lifetime. However, over the past few decades, neuroscientists have found that at least two brain regions--the centers of the sense of smell and the hippocampus, the seat of learning and memory--grow new neurons throughout life. Researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have shown, in mice, that one type of stem cell that makes adult neurons is the source of this lifetime stock of new cells in the hippocampus. Published this week in Cell, these findings may help neuroscientists figure out how to maintain youthful conditions for learning and memory, and repair and regenerate parts of the brain after injury and aging.

"We've shown for the first time, in mammals, that neurons in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus grow and develop from a single population of stem cells, over an entire lifespan," said senior author Hongjun Song, PhD a professor of Neuroscience. "The new immature neurons are more flexible in making connections in the hippocampus compared to mature neurons, which is paramount for healthy learning, memory, and adjusting mood."

The researchers showed that the neural stem cells they found had a common molecular signature across the lifespan of the mice. They did this by labeling neural stem cells in embryos when the brain was still developing and following the cells from birth into adulthood. This approach revealed that new neural stem cells with their precursor's label were continuously making neurons throughout an animal's lifetime.

"This process is unique in the brain," said co-senior author Guo-li Ming, MD, PhD, a professor of Neuroscience. "In the hippocampus, these cells never stop replicating and contribute to the flexibility of the brain in mammals."

This capacity is called plasticity, which is the brain's ability to form new connections throughout life to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust in response to new input from the environment. Ming likens the process of new neuron growth in the hippocampus to adding new units into the circuitry of the brain's motherboard.

The teams' next steps will be to look for the same neural stem cells in other mammals, most importantly in humans, starting the search in post-mortem brain tissue, and to investigate how this population of neural stem cells are regulated.
-end-
This work was funded by the National Institutes of Health (P01NS097206, R37NS047344, R35NS097370, R01MH105128), EMBO, and the Swedish Research Council.

Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $7.8 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top medical schools in the United States for more than 20 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $405 million awarded in the 2017 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center -- which are recognized as one of the nation's top "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report -- Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Medicine Princeton Health; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital - the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine, and Princeton House Behavioral Health, a leading provider of highly skilled and compassionate behavioral healthcare.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2017, Penn Medicine provided $500 million to benefit our community.

University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

Related Stem Cells Articles from Brightsurf:

SUTD researchers create heart cells from stem cells using 3D printing
SUTD researchers 3D printed a micro-scaled physical device to demonstrate a new level of control in the directed differentiation of stem cells, enhancing the production of cardiomyocytes.

More selective elimination of leukemia stem cells and blood stem cells
Hematopoietic stem cells from a healthy donor can help patients suffering from acute leukemia.

Computer simulations visualize how DNA is recognized to convert cells into stem cells
Researchers of the Hubrecht Institute (KNAW - The Netherlands) and the Max Planck Institute in Münster (Germany) have revealed how an essential protein helps to activate genomic DNA during the conversion of regular adult human cells into stem cells.

First events in stem cells becoming specialized cells needed for organ development
Cell biologists at the University of Toronto shed light on the very first step stem cells go through to turn into the specialized cells that make up organs.

Surprising research result: All immature cells can develop into stem cells
New sensational study conducted at the University of Copenhagen disproves traditional knowledge of stem cell development.

The development of brain stem cells into new nerve cells and why this can lead to cancer
Stem cells are true Jacks-of-all-trades of our bodies, as they can turn into the many different cell types of all organs.

Healthy blood stem cells have as many DNA mutations as leukemic cells
Researchers from the Princess Máxima Center for Pediatric Oncology have shown that the number of mutations in healthy and leukemic blood stem cells does not differ.

New method grows brain cells from stem cells quickly and efficiently
Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have developed a faster method to generate functional brain cells, called astrocytes, from embryonic stem cells.

NUS researchers confine mature cells to turn them into stem cells
Recent research led by Professor G.V. Shivashankar of the Mechanobiology Institute at the National University of Singapore and the FIRC Institute of Molecular Oncology in Italy, has revealed that mature cells can be reprogrammed into re-deployable stem cells without direct genetic modification -- by confining them to a defined geometric space for an extended period of time.

Researchers develop a new method for turning skin cells into pluripotent stem cells
Researchers at the University of Helsinki, Finland, and Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, have for the first time succeeded in converting human skin cells into pluripotent stem cells by activating the cell's own genes.

Read More: Stem Cells News and Stem Cells Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.