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Blood vessels control brain growth, scientists say

By Ryan Maass
Blood vessels control brain growth, scientists say
Blocking blood vessel growth removed the reproductive capability of neural stem cells, scientists say. Photo by Antonino Paolo Di Giovanna/Wikimedia Commons

LONDON, Nov. 9 (UPI) -- Blood vessels are capable of increasing the amount of neural stem cells, scientists at University College London found.

In a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a research team analyzed neural stem cell behavior using a mouse model. The study's authors say their latest revelations have strong implications for stem cell therapies targeting the nervous system.

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"We found that blood vessels play a vital role in telling neural stem cells when and how to reproduce," study author Mathew Tata said in a press release. "We examined neural stem cell behavior in the brainstem of mice lacking the blood vessel protein NRP1, because this part of the brain is particularly important to control fundamental processes such as breathing and heart rate."

During the experiment, blocking blood vessel growth in the neurogenic areas in mice was found to interfere with neuron production, thwarting the ability of neural stem cells to reproduce. Mice without the blood vessel protein ended up with smaller brainstems. Scientists conclude blood vessels are not only a significant contributor for brain growth, but also play a large role in stem cell signaling.

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"The most intriguing finding of this study was that blood vessels did not regulate neural stem cell behavior in the brainstem simply through their role in brain oxygenation or keeping brain tissue healthy," senior author Christiana Ruhrberg said. "We found that blood vessels also provide important signals that allow stem cells to reproduce for a longer period of time, before they permanently become nerve cells that cannot multiply."

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