APR 27 - Inflammation Signals Induce Dormancy in Aging Brain Stem Cells

Researchers from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) recently made several new discoveries relating to how brain stem cells function. These findings will help them develop new stem cell treatments for brain injuries and neurological diseases.

The researchers found that the number of brain stem cells in mice declines dramatically as they age and the remaining stem cells protect themselves by becoming dormant. However, once reactivated, these dormant cells can be as potent as young ones.

The stem cells are triggered to become dormant by inflammatory signals in their environment. The researchers have discovered that anti-inflammatory substances can be used to wake these stem cells up, prompting them to begin repairing the brain once more.

Some of the stem cells in the adult brain can generate new nerve cells (neurones) for life. If these cells are successfully reactivated, they can add new neurones to replace those that have been damaged by disease or injury. Additionally, waking these cells can reduce cognitive decline that humans naturally experience as they age.

Lead researcher, Dr. Ana Martin-Villalba, explains how brain stem cells contribute to cognitive decline: “This is because most stem cells disappear in the process of differentiating into mature brain cells and only a small portion of them generates new stem cells,” she continued, “If they did not increasingly enter into a state of dormancy without dividing actively as the brain ages, the supply of stem cells in the brain of an old mouse would be completely exhausted. They are using the dormancy to gain time.”

Researchers from the DKFZ and the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) of the University of Luxembourg have already been able to turn on the dormant cells and have seen them regenerate the brains of older mice. They did so by identifying the inflammatory chemical messengers responsible for dormancy and blocking them. After blocking these messengers, the dormant stem cells began building neurones and repairing the brain.

These exciting discoveries may lead to new treatments for neurological problems and reduce cognitive decline in ageing humans.

Source: Inflammation signals induce dormancy in aging brain stem cells