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  • Imagine the brain could reboot,

  • updating its withered and damaged cells with new, improved units.

  • That may sound like science fiction,

  • but it's a potential reality scientists are investigating right now.

  • Will our brains one day be able to self-repair?

  • It's well known that embryonic cells in our young developing brains

  • produce new neurons,

  • the microscopic units that make up the brain's tissue.

  • Those newly generated neurons migrate to various parts of the developing brain,

  • making it self-organize into different structures.

  • But until recently,

  • scientists thought cell production came to an abrupt halt soon after this initial growth,

  • leading them to conclude that neurological diseases,

  • like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's,

  • and damaging events, like strokes, are irreversible.

  • But a series of recent discoveries

  • has revealed that adult brains actually do continue to produce new cells

  • in at least three specialized locations.

  • This process, known as neurogenesis,

  • involves dedicated brain cells, called neural stem cells

  • and progenitor cells,

  • which manufacture new neurons or replace the old ones.

  • The three regions where neurogenesis has been discovered

  • are the dentate gyrus, associated with learning and memory,

  • the subventricular zone, which may supply neurons to the olfactory bulb

  • for communication between the nose and brain,

  • and the striatum, which helps manage movement.

  • Scientists don't yet have a good grasp on exactly what role

  • neurogenesis plays in any of these regions,

  • or why they have this ability that's absent from the rest of the brain,

  • but the mere presence of a mechanism to grown new neurons in the adult brain

  • opens up an amazing possibility.

  • Could we harness that mechanism to get the brain to heal its scars

  • similar to how new skin grows to patch up a wound,

  • or a broken bone stitches itself back together?

  • So here's where we stand.

  • Certain proteins and other small molecules that mimick those proteins

  • can be administered to the brain

  • to make neural stem cells and progenitor cells

  • produce more neurons in those three locations.

  • This technique still needs improvement

  • so that the cells reproduce more efficiently

  • and more cells survive.

  • But research shows that progenitor cells from these areas

  • can actually migrate to places where injury has occurred

  • and give rise to new neurons there.

  • And another promising possible approach

  • is to transplant healthy human neural stem cells,

  • which are cultured in a laboratory, to injured tissue,

  • like we can do with skin.

  • Scientists are currently experimenting

  • to determine whether transplanted donor cells can divide, differentiate

  • and successfully give rise to new neurons in a damaged brain.

  • They've also discovered

  • that we might be able to teach other kinds of brain cells,

  • such as astrocytes or oligodendrocytes

  • to behave like neural stem cells and start generating neurons, too.

  • So, a couple of decades from now will our brains be able to self-repair?

  • We can't say for sure,

  • but that has become one of the major goals of regenerative medicine.

  • The human brain has 100 billion neurons

  • and we're still figuring out the wiring behind this huge biological motherboard.

  • But everyday, research on neurogenesis brings us closer to that reboot switch.

Imagine the brain could reboot,

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B2 US TED-Ed brain neurogenesis neural repair migrate

【TED-Ed】Could your brain repair itself? - Ralitsa Petrova

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    稲葉白兎 posted on 2015/06/15
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