Study discovers nerves in brain can regenerate

March 27, 1992|By Boston Globe

Researchers have discovered that nerve cells in the brains of adult mammals can be stimulated to divide and replenish themselves, a finding that not only challenges long-held scientific beliefs but also carries potentially far-reaching medical implications.

If the new findings in mice, published today in the journal Science, hold up for humans as well, they could pave the way toward novel treatments for stroke and other brain injuries, scientists said yesterday.

For decades, scientists have believed that nerve cells in the human brain grow abundantly during embryonic development, then stop growing and dividing soon after birth.

The new study is "very exciting because it raises the possibility that the mature human brain has the capacity for renewal as a means of repair following injury or disease. Up to now, we haven't considered this a realistic alternative," said Dr. Emanuel DiCicco-Bloom, a neuroscientist at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, N.J. He added that, until now, scientists have believed that in terms of brain cells, what "you are born with is what you have" for life.

The study is "close to a breakthrough," he said.

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