Posted by: Neurobites | May 21, 2010

Neurogenesis Part 1

Hiya everyone, Rim here, I will be taking you guys through a journey of multiple blog posts that will cover one of the most fascinating topics within neuroscience.

Neurogenesis: An Introduction

According to the Medterms.com “Neurogenesis is the process by which new nerve cells are generated. In neurogenesis, there is active production of new neurons, astrocytes, glia, and other neural lineages from undifferentiated neural progenitor or stem cells. Neurogenesis is considered a rather inactive process in most areas of the adult brain.”

Cells re-grow all the time; your skin, your bone marrow and your intestines are all organs that regenerate (thumbs up for the cool word) their cells. This regeneration actually saves our lives daily..seriously.

But what could these new cells aka neurons be doing for us in the brain?

The area of the neurogenesis is one of the hottest and hippest  (we are going to let the scientists have that one) in the field of neuroscience.   Evidence of neurogenesis has been reported back in the early 1960’s by the Atlman and Dos from MIT, it has only recently (last twenty years is recent in science years) that it has grown in popularity. The literature is enthusiastic about the implications that it may have, with possible new insights into depression, stress coping and memory formation. Some researchers are even suggesting that these new neurons may even be the key to learning languages and musical instruments in adulthood with the same speed and accuracy as we would if we had learned them as children.

The majority of the new neuronal growth seems to be localized in the area of the brain that is shaped like a seahorse, and is creatively called the hippocampus (Greek for “sea monster”). The growth of the new neurons has been shown to be limited to the subgranular zone (schematic of the area is in the link posted below, ahem, we try to avoid being sued). This structure, located deep within the brain, has been the main focus for researchers looking at learning and memory, depression, aging and stress. This is not the only area of the brain where the birth of new neurons have been reported, other,  areas include the olfactory blub and more controversially the hypothalamus (literally meaning “below the thalamus”. I know, I know I am sure they tried).

Let’s think this through; what could the big implications be for neurogenesis?

Are the neurons born in adulthood of the organism differ from those born during gestation? What is the functionality of these neurons? What are the mechanisms that regulate the birth of these neurons and set the paths of their possible migration? Do they integrate themselves into the complex circulatory of the brain? If so, how do they fit in these established circuits? Does a stimulation of this growth really mean we become smarter or learn faster? What happens when they become limited in supply? What happens when they are over produced? Why do they ever decrease to begin with?

Any ideas?

I’ll let you sleep on it.

Till next time my science buffs,

Rim

Next installment: Neurogenesis and Memory.

http://www.nature.com/nrn/journal/v8/n2/fig_tab/nrn2074_F2.html

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Responses

  1. I like neurogenesis. It’s pretty neat when you think of it in terms of cancer. I wrote a paper once on aging in a mutagenesis course and I talked about the limit on the number of replications of a cell called the Hayflick limit. I didn’t mention the CNS but it would be interesting to look at it in terms of the Hayflick limit, and why or why not the Hayflick limit is so low. Or, more importantly, is neurogenesis in the CNS from mitosis, or is it from specialization of stem cells, or both? I would guess it’s not from mitosis. I once measured GOAT levels in the hypothalamus and then GOAT levels in the stomach using QRTPCR. The interesting thing was that I didn’t find any non-specific amplification in the brain but I did in the stomach. In the stomach I found nonspecific amplification which we eventually found out was for a gene called dynactin subunit 6 which is important in mitosis, which as expected suggests there’s little mitosis in the brain but a lot of mitosis in the stomach.


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