For the first time, investigators have identified a way to detect neural progenitor cells (NPCs), which can develop into neurons and other nervous system cells, in the living human brain using a type of imaging called magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS). The finding, supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), may lead to improved diagnosis and treatment for depression, Parkinson's disease, brain tumors, and a host of other disorders.
Research has shown that, in select brain regions, NPCs persist into adulthood and may give rise to new neurons. Studies have suggested that the development of new neurons from NPCs, called neurogenesis, is disrupted in disorders ranging from depression and schizophrenia to Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, and cancer. Until now, however, there has been no way to monitor neurogenesis in the living human brain.
"The recent finding that neural progenitor cells exist in adult human brain has opened a whole new field in neuroscience. The ability to track these cells in living people would be a major breakthrough in understanding brain development in children and continued maturation of the adult brain. It could also be a very useful tool for research aimed at influencing NPCs to restore or maintain brain health," says Walter J. Koroshetz, M.D., deputy director of the NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), which helped fund the work. The study was also funded by the NIH's National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).
"This is the first noninvasive approach to identify neural progenitor cells in the human brain," says Grigori Enikolopov, Ph.D., of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, who conducted the new study along with co-corresponding author Mirjana Maletic-Savatic, M.D., Ph.D., of the State University of New York, Stony Brook and their colleagues at SUNY Stony Brook and Brookhaven National Laboratory. MRS is an imaging techn
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NIH/National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke