Many clinicians have pinned their hopes on stem cells. Stem cells could, for example, replace nerve cells after a stroke. However, until now it has not been possible to observe the process of live stem cells developing into fully functional nerve cells. Now, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Research in Cologne have developed a novel method for studying such processes in the living brain, enabling them to observe how human stem cells transplanted into the cerebral cortex of mice develop into mature functional nerve cells. Stem cells turn into nerve cells: during a period of three weeks, more and more stem cells transform into immature nerve cells green.
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Alcohol and Your Brain
Stem cells used to trace autism back to the formation of neurons
While autism is a spectrum of disorders, it's clear that the more significant cases involve physical differences in the brain's nerve cells. Several studies have reported an excess in connections among neurons in the brains of people with autism. But when does this happen?
After birth the brain loses many nerve cells and this continues throughout life -- most neurons are formed before birth, after which many excess neurons degenerate. However, there are some cells that are still capable of division in old age -- in the brains of mice, at least. According to scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology in Freiburg, different types of neuronal stem cells exist that can create new neurons. While they divide continuously and create new neurons in young animals, a large proportion of the cells in older animals persist in a state of dormancy.