Do Brain Cells Regenerate?

The usual belief has been that each individual is born with a limited number of brain cells. Hence, if any of the brain cells are damaged, they have to remain so for the rest of a person’s life. Major contributors in the neuroscience industry used to believe that brain cannot regenerate new cells even up till 20 years ago. However, according to recent discoveries, most scientists have been convinced for a different thinking.

Do Brain Cells Regenerate?

There is hope for people who thought that too many brain cells have been lost to youthful dissipation. According to researchers at Cornell University, brain cells from an area that are required for memory and learning can be regenerated in laboratory. This discovery can lead to developing strategies to replace brain cells lost due to medical ailments such as Alzheimer’s disease.

A region of the brain referred to as the hippocampus has been found to have continuous turnover of brain cells throughout our lives by researchers in the last few years. So, do brain cells regenerate? Yes, they do.

How Could It Happen?

In a latest study conducted by Steven A Goldman and colleagues from Cornell University Medical College in the New York, sample tissues of the hippocampus were taken from patients who underwent surgery for brain disorders. They teased out cells out of an area where populations of precursor or seed cells were found. The precursor cells were separated from the mature cells (which cannot divide). The researchers were able to help the cells to continue to grow and divide.

According to Jack P. Antel and his colleagues from the McGill University, Montreal, this approach may ultimately lead into developing newer strategies to repair and restore cells that are lost due to medical ailments or trauma caused to the hippocampus and also to other areas of the brain.

There Is Still a Long Way to Go

However, it has been cautioned by Goldman that it is quite early to think that these cells can be used for transplantation of brain cells. According to Goldman, the problems in front of us are tricky, including finding out the best method to transplant these cells into the brain, ensuring their survival after the transplantation and transplanting them into the possible part of the brain where they are most beneficial.

According to many researchers, aging-related memory loss is caused by damage to the cells of the hippocampus, which occurs due to the continuous stress hormone exposure. It has been shown in several studies that in the elderly and rats who have prolonged increase in the stress hormone levels the size of the hippocampus is small and there is decline in memory due to damage to the hippocampus.

According to Ronald McKay, PhD, chief of the laboratory of molecular biology at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, decreasing the levels of stress hormones in elderly rats can restore the rate of production of brain cells in the hippocampus. He also stated that such cells are present in the hippocampus, which are replaced and restored from dividing cells.

There is a hope to get a positive answer to "Do brain cells regenerate?" However, both McKay and Goldman say that for these therapies to be practical in the treatment of diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, much remains to be learned.

Instead, these seed cells can likely be used in the drug testing laboratories. It could be explored whether different drugs or their combinations can be utilized to stimulate growth of new brain cells in the area of hippocampus.

Watch the TED speech below to know how new neuro cells in the brain are generated: 

Besides Brain Cells, What Cells Can Regenerate in Human Body?

Apart from finding answer to the question, "Do brain cells regenerate?" let us also find out other cells that can regenerate in the human body. In human beings, non-injured cells naturally regenerate over time. These cells, by default, contain new cells that are available to restore and replace lost cells. As an example, a full bone is regenerated by the body within a time frame of 10 years; whereas non-injured skin tissue can be regenerated within a time frame of 2 weeks. A different response is used by the body for injured tissue–this is an emergency response and involves restoring the lost tissue by forming scar tissue. The time taken to restore injured tissue is longer than to restore a non-injured tissue.

Natural regeneration can occur in certain cells but some need help to induce cell regeneration with transplanting stem cells, dedifferentiating cells on the injury site, implanting bioartificial tissues and implanting lab-grown tissues and organs.

See the chart for more details:

Regenerate Naturally

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