In­jec­tion pro­duces new brain cells

Science Illustrated - - SCIENCE UPDATE -

An in­jec­tion can convert some of the brain’s sup­port­ing cells into nerve cells, ac­cord­ing to sci­en­tists from the Pek­ing Univer­sity. This holds out hopes of a new treat­ment for peo­ple with de­men­tia, brain in­jury, and sim­i­lar con­di­tions.

Apart from nerve cells, the brain in­cludes ma­jor quan­ti­ties of dif­fer­ent sup­port­ing cells. One type is as­tro­cytes, which re­move su­per­flu­ous neu­ro­trans­mit­ters and tox­ins. The brain in­cludes 10 times as many of the tough as­tro­cytes as nerve cells. The sci­en­tists in­jected small por­tions of care­fully se­lected mol­e­cules into the brains of mice over a pe­riod of two weeks. Eight weeks later, the sci­en­tists took sam­ples of the brain tis­sue, which showed that a ma­jor quan­tity of the as­tro­cytes had changed to re­sem­ble nerve cells. The con­verted as­tro­cytes could send elec­tric im­pulses and pro­duce new links just like nerve cells. Af­ter a year, the sci­en­tists stud­ied the cells again, and the con­verted cells had kept their new func­tions with no signs of neg­a­tive side ef­fects. How­ever, they do not know, how the mice ex­pe­ri­enced the treat­ment, and although the re­search opens wide per­spec­tives, it will prob­a­bly be a long time, be­fore the method is tested on hu­mans.

Sup­port­ing cells, called as­tro­cytes, can be con­verted into nerve cells by means of chem­i­cals.

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