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Press Release: Reprogramming “Support Cells” into Neurons Could Repair Injured Adult Brains

The portion of the adult brain responsible for complex thought, known as the cerebral cortex, lacks the ability to replace neurons that die as a result of Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and other devastating diseases. A study in the journal Stem Cell Reports, published by Cell Press shows that a Sox2 protein, alone or in combination with another protein, Ascl1, can cause nonneuronal cells, called NG2 glia, to turn into neurons in the injured cerebral cortex of adult mice.


Reprogramming “Support Cells” into Neurons Could Repair Injured Adult Brains
To test potential brain repair strategies, Berninger and SyNergy-PI Magdalena Götz of Helmholtz Zentrum München and LMU delivered transcription factors into the cerebral cortex of an animal model three days after brain injury. Surprisingly, they found that Sox2 alone or in combination with Ascl1 was sufficient to trigger the emergence of neurons, contrary to the widely accepted view that Sox2 prevents stem cells from turning into more mature cells such as neurons. Notably, the majority of cells that converted into neurons were NG2 glia. These glial cells have received relatively little attention in the past, even though they represent a promising cellular source for brain repair strategies because of their abundance and life-long capacity for proliferation.

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Das Wissenschaftlerteam um Prof. Dr. Benedikt Berninger von der Universitätsmedizin der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz und SyNergy- PI Dr. Magdalena Götz vom Helmholtz Zentrum München und der LMU hat nun herausgefunden, dass sich bestimmte Gliazellen (NG2 Glia) – eigentlich Stützzellen des Hirngewebes – unter bestimmten Bedingungen im zerebralen Kortex in Neuronen verwandeln. Damit bilden NG2 Glia eine vielversprechende Grundlage für neue Therapieansätze.