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Stem cell research reveals clues to brain disease

The development of new drugs for improving treatment of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease is a step closer after recent research into how stem cells migrate and form circuits in the brain.

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The results from a study by researchers at The University of Auckland’s Centre for Brain Research may hold important clues into why there is less plasticity in brains affected by Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, and links to insulin resistance and diabetes.

The major five-year project to understand how stem cells start and stop migrating in the brain has also helped to unlock the secrets of how stem cells migrate during development and in adulthood.

The study revealed new information on how connectivity between brain cells is improved or worsened, says senior study author, Dr Maurice Curtis who conceived and directed the research. The experiments were carried out at the Centre for Brain Research laboratories by Dr Hector Monzo. Collaborators included a director of the CBR, Distinguished Professor Richard Faull, Dr Thomas Park, Dr Birger Dieriks, Deidre Jansson and Professor Mike Dragunow.

“We have begun testing new novel drug compounds that target how polysialic acid is removed from the cell in the hope of improving neuron connectivity,” says Dr Curtis.

He explains that stem cells in the brain are immature brain cells that must migrate from their birthplace to a position in the brain where they will connect with other brain cells, turn into adult brain cells (neurons) and become part of the brain’s circuitry.

“Even once the neuron has...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

University of Auckland