A new paper was recently published online in Nature Communications from the Politis Group at BRFAA. In this study, the authors deciphered a new molecular pathway that controls how mammalian brain cells are generated from neural stem cells.
The human brain consists of 100 billion neurons and an even greater number of glial cells. Neurons gather and transmit information signals to different areas of the brain, and certain glial cells form a sheath around the neurons to insulate and support them. The different kinds of neuronal and glial cells are produced from neural stem cells at very specific moments during brain formation. If this time window passes and the neural stem cells fail to differentiate into specific neural or glial cells, severe developmental defects, brain malformations, neurodegenerative diseases, or brain cancers may be a direct result.
The researchers in Panagiotis Politis’ Group showed that nuclear receptor NR5A2 controls these decisions by inhibiting cell-cycle progression and differentiation of neural stem cells into astrocytes, while promoting neuronal specification. Elucidation of these molecular mechanisms not only provides insights into the basic principles of brain formation, but may also allow novel therapies for the treatment of brain-related diseases, tumors and traumas.
Stergiopoulos A, Politis PK
Nuclear receptor NR5A2 controls neural stem cell fate decisions during development.
Nat Commun. 2016 Jul 22;7:12230. doi: 10.1038/ncomms12230.