"This is a tremendous example of how our public atlas resources can lead to critical discoveries that offer promising avenues for developing much needed new clinical therapies," said Allan Jones, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of the Allen Institute.
Dr. Roskams, who led the collaborative research team, has said that it is possible this pool of cells was overlooked because of its unusual location, and because scientists have been working with limited information. With the availability of the public, online Allen Spinal Cord Atlas, the information accessible to researchers has been vastly increased.
In the search for neural stem cells, scientists have been using a few known genes as clues to find candidates deep in the middle of the spinal cord. While some neural stem cells have been discovered there, the newly identified class of spinal cord radial glia run along the edge of the spinal cord, an incredibly convenient location for activating them with minimal secondary damage to help the spinal cord repair during disease or after injury.
"When we first saw known neural stem cell genes appearing in these cells on the edge of the cord, I realized we not only had a brand new cell, but had the capacity to reveal a new gene set that may also guide us to hidden neural stem cells in atypical locations in the brain. I did not expect so many of them to link to human diseases," Dr. Roskams said.
Identifying these cells and the genes relevant to activate them opens fresh new pathways to explore effective therapies to treat spinal cord injury and several types of neurodegenerative disease.
|Contact: Steven Cooper|
Allen Institute for Brain Science