“Can one feel too attached? Does one need to let go to mature? Neural stem cells have this problem, too. “So asks a UCLA press release about work by CIRM grantee Bennett Novitch. He and a team have been working to understand how neural stem cells understand when it’s time to leave their protected homes and migrate out to where they are needed in the brain. Their findings are critical for understanding some birth defects and also some nervous system diseases such as autism.
The press release describes when the stem cells multiply during development of the brain:
“During the first trimester of development, the neural stem and progenitor cells form a niche, or safe zone, within the nervous system. The neural stem and precursor cells adhere to each other in a way that allows them to expand their numbers and keep from differentiating.”In a paper published today in Neuron, the team describes two genes that are essential for breaking the stem cells free of the niche and allowing them to migrate out into the brain and become neurons. The release quotes Novitch:
“We were also surprised to see how small changes in the degree of cell adhesion can markedly alter the development and structure of the nervous system. It’s all about balance, if you have too many or too few stem and precursor cells, the result could be disastrous.”Novitch and his group hope to learn whether the same genes are also required for normal stem cell function in adult brains and in the growth of brain tumors. There are some hints that their results could also apply to some speech and language disorders and also autism.
You can read more about CIRM's funding of autism research on our website. We also wrote about autism research by CIRM grantees in our annual report.
CIRM Funding: Bennett Novitch (RB1-01367)