U of G study is first to find evidence that leopard geckos can make new brain cells

July 27, 2018

University of Guelph researchers have discovered the type of stem cell allowing geckos to create new brain cells, providing evidence that the lizards may also be able to regenerate parts of the brain after injury.

This finding could help in replacing human brain cells lost or damaged due to injury, aging or disease.

"The brain is a complex organ and there are so few good treatments for brain injury, so this is a very exciting area of research," said Prof. Matthew Vickaryous in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC).

"The findings indicate that gecko brains are constantly renewing brain cells, something that humans are notoriously bad at doing," he said.

Published in Scientific Reports, this study is the first to provide evidence of new neuron formation - and the presence of stem cells - in the leopard gecko brain.

"Most regeneration research has looked at zebrafish or salamanders. Our work uses lizards, which are more closely related to mammals than either fish or amphibians," said Rebecca McDonald, a master's student who led the study.

The researchers identified stem cells that regularly produce new brain cells in the medial cortex, an area in the front of the brain that is responsible for social cognition and behaviour. It is also a part of the lizard's brain that has a well-studied counterpart in the human brain - the hippocampus.

To track cells in the geckos' brains, researchers injected the lizards with a chemical label that gets incorporated into the DNA of newly formed cells. Looking at the labelled cells over time, researchers saw where they first appeared, where they migrated to and what types of cells they ultimately became.

McDonald says she was surprised to see just how many stem cells the gecko brain contains and how quickly new brain cells are produced.

Last year, Vickaryous published a study that for the first time identified cells in geckos that enable them to regrow their spinal cords when regenerating their tails.

"The next step in this area of research is to determine why some species, like geckos, can replace brain cells while other species, like humans, cannot," said McDonald.

Entering OVC's veterinary medicine program this year, she hopes to continue studying wound healing.

"Recently, there's been a lot of new information coming out about the brain's ability to produce new cells, something that was long thought to be impossible," she said.

"This is definitely an area of research that has the potential to change the way we treat brain injuries."
-end-


University of Guelph

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.