Scientists at the University of Toronto and Sina Health say they have found a new way to control the fate of neural stem cells, bringing researchers one step closer to solving the mystery of how the brain repairs after injury or stroke.
The results were recently published in the journal Nature Communicationsidentified a small group of molecules capable of preventing two major classes of neural stem cells from losing their ability to differentiate into important components of the mammalian cortex, the part of the brain that controls language and information processing.
“This discovery is an exciting extension of platform technologies developed by our laboratory in recent years, which make cellular therapy safe and universal with off-the-shelf products to treat degenerative diseases,” said Andras Nagy, lead author of the study, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Timerte Medical School, and lead researcher. at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute at Sinai Health.
GABAergic and glutamatergic neurons are the two major subtypes of neurons in the mammalian forebrain, or cerebral cortex. Both classes develop from cells known as neuroepithelial progenitor cells and play an early and important role in brain development, but then rapidly lose their ability to form other types of cortical cells.
To overcome this limitation, scientists in Nagy’s lab have identified a group of small molecules that are able to maintain the growth of progenitor cells without losing their developmental potential.
Furthermore, when the researchers pulled this mixture of molecules from the stem cells, the cells continued to differentiate into human forebrain cells in large numbers.
said Nagy, who also belongs to the U of T’s Institute of Medical Sciences and holds the Canadian Research Chair in Stem Cells and Regeneration. “These cells could be used in cellular therapies, with the potential to treat strokes and other neurological diseases.”
Understanding the forces that regulate brain development will help identify the underlying causes of diseases, leading to new treatments, said Balazs Varga, first author on the research paper who developed cell-based therapeutic approaches for the project over a decade.
“Our work has identified one way in which we can control the fate of neural stem cells,” said Varga, a former postdoctoral researcher in Nagy’s lab who is now a research associate at the Wellcome Trust for Medical Research, Cambridge Stem Cell Institute. “A better understanding of neuroepithelial cell behavior will provide us with insights into how to control progenitor cell function and brain regeneration.”
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Balazs V. Varga et al, Signaling requirements for cortical capacity of transplantable human neuroepithelial stem cells, Nature Communications (2022). DOI: 10.1038 / s41467-022-29839-8
Presented by the University of Toronto
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