Since the same type of cells are also present in the human brain, the researchers say the same capacity or potential might exist in humans. If so, they say it's possible the cells' behavior could be enhanced to treat brain tissues damaged by disorders such as stroke and traumatic injury.
The study was led by Dr. Chay Kuo, a University of California-San Francisco postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of senior investigator Yuh-Nung Jan.
"The results were very surprising," said Kuo. "They show that neural stem cells in mice have the ability to sense damage in their environment that leads to their subsequent proliferation to help restore local tissue integrity."
Kuo and colleagues Zaman Mirzadeh and Denan Wang of UCSF, Mario Soriano-Navarro and Jose Garcia-Verdugo of the University of Valencia; Mladen Rasin and Nenad Sestan of Yale University School of Medicine; and Jie Shen of Harvard Medical School report their findings in the current issue of the journal Cell.
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