The adult mammalian brain contains stem cells which continuously give rise to new neurons that function in brain circuits. Understanding the biology of stem cells in the adult mammalian brain may provide insight into brain repair.
Neural stem cells are multipotent cells. In development, they give rise to neurons and glial cells in the brain and central nervous system. In adulthood, some adult neural stem cells continue to exist. They reside in specialized environments called niches, that support their survival. The interaction of neural stem cells with their niche is very important for their ability to self-renew and differentiate.
There are a number of important questions which are not understood about adult neural stem cells. These include: the regulation of gene networks and molecular pathways in adult neural stem cells; modes of cell quiescence, activation, and differentiation; the make-up of niches, and how these change under distinct physiological states.
Increased understanding of adult brain stem cells and how they interact with their niche in vivo is important. It will further our understanding of dysregulated cells in diseases which affect the brain. The ability of adult neural stem cells to give rise to new neurons might even mean adult brain stem cells could be used to repair damaged brain tissue.
This image was inspired by research by Fiona Doetsch