After Brain Injury, New Astrocytes Play Unexpected Role in Healing

Stethoscope and Laptop

A study by researchers at Duke University reports that astrocytes, a type of brain cell previously associated with tissue inflammation and brain tumors resulting from head injury, may also promote scarring and brain tissue recovery in mice.

The researchers hope to replace neurons damaged by stroke or traumatic brain injury with immature neurons produced by neural stem cells; unlike mature neurons, immature neurons can multiply. The process followed by the researchers produces neurons and glial cells, which include astrocytes. Blocking astrocyte production by stem cells living in the subventricular zone of damaged brains resulted in hemorrhaging in those damaged areas.

The results of the study may one day lead to treatments for victims of stroke and TBI.

Benner, E J, Luciano, D, et al. Protective astrogenesis from the SVZ nice after injury is controlled by Notch modulator Thbs4. Nature. (April 2013).