Researchers are now able to study stem cells from the brains of adult mice and their neurogenesis in long-term cell cultures.
Harish Babu an Dr. Gerd Kempermann (both from the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, MDC, Berlin-Buch, the Volkswagenstiftung Research Group at the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany) have developed a new method which allows them to generate exactly those neurons from stem cells in cell culture as those that would develop in the living brain.
They isolated the stem cells from a region of the hippocampus, the dentate gyrus, which is an island for neurogenesis in the adult brain. First, they demonstrated that the hippocampus of adult mice does indeed have cells with stem cell properties – which had previously been debated upon – and, furthermore, that these stem cells develop into neurons of the hippocampus under certain conditions.
These stem cell cultures from which neurons can be generated are a powerful tool to study stem cells and their regulatory mechanisms in the hippocampus, the region for learning and memory, as stated in the researchers’ report in the American online journal Plos One (DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0000388, 25. April 2007).
Several years previously, Dr. Kempermann and other researchers were able to show that even the adult brains can build new neurons. The researchers assume that the new neurons in the hippocampus help the brain adjust to new challenges in life. If and how these new cells or their precursor cells, the stem cells, can be used to develop therapies against dementia remains to be seen.