(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) In an unanticipated finding, researchers at the UC Davis School of Medicine have discovered that, during early adulthood, the brain produces new excitatory neurons, and that these neurons arise from non-neuronal support cells in an area of the brain that processes smell.
The study, conducted in mice, is the first to demonstrate that pyramidal neurons in the mature brain stem are generated by precursors of glial cells non-neuronal support cells and that these new neurons likely are capable of transmitting information to widespread regions of the brain, said David Pleasure, a professor of neurology and pediatrics at the UC Davis School of Medicine and the study's author.
"Pyramidal Neurons are Generated from Oligodendroglial Progenitor Cells in Adult Piriform Cortex," is published online this week in the Journal of Neuroscience.
"We used to think that the sole destiny of oligodendroglial progenitor cells was to become myelin-forming oligodendroglia," Pleasure said. "Later it was shown that they also can generate other kinds of glial cells as well. We now have demonstrated that these oligodendroglial progenitor cells, which are widely distributed in the brain, and persist throughout life, also give rise to a group of large cerebral cortical neurons. Thus, oligodendroglial progenitor cells are truly multipotent."
The researchers found that precursors of glial cells, called proteolipid promoter-expressing NG2 progenitors (PPEPs, pronounced Pee-peps), give rise to glutamatergic pyramidal neurons, an important type of brain cell that sends long-range excitatory signals. PPEPs belong to a class of glial precursor cells called oligodendroglial progenitor cells (OPCs). These cells have been discovered only recently, and they hold tremendous promise for stem-cell regenerative medicine. They are the largest proliferating population of cells in the mammalian brain and spinal cord, and they could replace or r
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University of California - Davis - Health System