Converting the brain's support cells – glia – into functioning neurons using a gene therapy approach
These red-stained neurons, located in the brain of a stroke-injured mouse, started life as glial cells – the non-conductive cells of the brain that generally function to surround and support the neurons. A newly devised gene-therapy approach that drives glial expression of Neurod1 – a critical protein for specifying neuronal fate – was responsible for the cell type conversion and, importantly, has been shown to restore both cognitive and motor functions in stroke-injured animals. A stroke, which is defined as an interruption in the blood supply to a part of the brain caused by either a blockage (ischaemic stroke) or a bleed (haemorrhagic stroke), can lead to significant neuronal death in the affected area and with it permanent neurological disability. Thus, if this cell-conversion therapy can be developed for use in humans, it may one day provide a restoration of brain functions otherwise lost for good.
Written by Ruth Williams
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.