Research On Flies Provides Hope For Brain Repair

This story on neuro-regeneration is part of an extended series on Regenerative Medicine. For other stories on this topic see and search for Regenerative Medicine. My definition of Regenerative Medicine is any medical modality that returns us to normal health when we are damaged by disease, injured by trauma, disadvantaged by birth, or worn by time. Modalities include: chemicals, genes, proteins and cells used as drugs, gene editing, prosthetics, and mind-machine interfaces.

The Challenge of Brain Repair

One of the most significant challenges in medicine is the ability to repair brain damage. Damaged brain cells do not normally regenerate and can lead to permanent motor and cognitive impairments. The study of brain cell regeneration has been ongoing for many years. However, recent scientific advances using a distant model organism—the fruit fly—may offer a new window into how brain cells could be regenerated in humans.

Fruit flies, while very physiologically different than humans, have proven to be a valuable model for a number of developmental processes in the past. Now, it seems that they may serve as a beneficial tool to study regenerative processes as well.

Studies have shown that the brain contains a natural ability to partially produce new neurons in response to injury. This involves the activation of specialized cells called neural stem cells. Unfortunately, neural stem cells are rarely, if ever, fully activated. This means that while many neurons begin the process of regeneration, only a fraction of fully functional neurons is ever produced.

But how, exactly, does the brain activate neural stem cells and how could we promote this process to increase the brain’s ability to repair damage? A recent paper by scientists at the Champalimaud Foundation in Portugal may bring us closer to the answer.

Read the full article on Forbes.

© William A. Haseltine, PhD. All Rights Reserved.