February 6, 2007
Contact: Melissa Campbell
Phone: (973) 972-4564
UMDNJ Study Documents Widespread Repair
Brain Injury from Adult Stem Cells
NEWARK — Neuroscientists at UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School have discovered that the neonatal brain possesses a previously unknown capacity to replace damaged neurons in multiple brain regions. Furthermore, their research reveals that the production of these new neurons lasts for at least five months following injury.
The study, led by Steve Levison, PhD, professor of neuroscience at UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, was published on-line February 6 in the Annals of Neurology.
It has long been known that infant brains have a greater ability to recover from brain injuries than adult brains because the immature brain is more adaptable. This “plasticity” has been assumed to be due to the ability of immature neurons to take over the “job responsibilities” of injured neurons. Levison’s study reveals that in addition to neurons acquiring new or different responsibilities, that another adaptive response, one that has not been suspected, occurs. Their data show that large numbers of new neurons are produced from the brain’s resident stem cells during their recovery from injury. These findings suggest that these new neurons are further increasing the infant brain’s ability to repair itself after injury.
Of particular interest is that these newly generated neurons - which are made from resident stem cells lying deep within the brain - travel great distances in response to homing signals (which Levison’s laboratory characterized) that are produced by cells in the vicinity of the damaged neurons.
These findings, which challenge the dogma that you are born with all of the neurons that you’ll ever have, provide information that will enable researchers to amplify the number of new neurons that can be generated from the brain’s resident stem cells as well as to direct those cells to brain regions where they are required for cell replacement. These discoveries provide hope that the effects of brain damage in infants resulting from lack of blood or lack of oxygen, which occurs in approximately 1 to 2 per 1,000 full-term births, can be mitigated.
Members of the media can contact Melissa Campbell at (973) 972-4564 to arrange and interview with Dr. Levison.
UMDNJ is the nation’s largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,500 students attending the state’s three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and its only school of public health, on five campuses. Last year, there were more than two million patient visits to UMDNJ facilities and faculty at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a mental health and addiction services network.