This release is available in German.
With 100 billion nerve cells, the brain is the most complex organ in the human body. "We want to understand the development program behind," says Dr. Steffen Scholpp from the ITG. "We want to find out how individual parts of the brain develop, this means, what makes precursor cells build a specialized area such as the thalamus." Scholpp's group at ITG studies the development of the thalamus. "It is the central interface between the brain and the outer world: Everything that is perceived via eyes, ears or the tactile sense has to pass the thalamus before it is routed to the cerebral cortex for further processing."
In the long term, the scientists want to be able to heal damaged brain parts by a tissue replacement therapy. If, for example, brain tissue is damaged after an infarct, is the body is not able to regenerate this tissue. "Today, stroke is the most frequent cause of disability acquired at adult age and due to its central role, damage of the thalamus is very serious," emphasizes Steffen Scholpp. "For this reason, we have to find a strategy to activate stem cells such that the damaged tissue can be replaced." Recently, an important step was made by the scientists: By studying zebrafish, they identified Lhx2 and Lhx9, the factors controlling the development of neurons in the thalamus. "Without these factors, the thalamus would accommodate undifferentiated nerve cells only this means, the precursory cells lack the information required for specialization," explains the biologist. Analysis of brain development in zebrafish allows conclusions to be drawn with respect to the development in all vertebrates, including human. The results of the group are published in the current issue of the PLoS Biology journal.
In the same study, Scholpp and his team identified another factor that acts as "adhesive
|Contact: Monika Landgraf|
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres