A protein generated by blood vessels within stem cell niches in the brain may have treatment implications in brain repair following injury or disease, researchers at the Medical Research Council (MRC), London, England, report. According to researchers, the protein Betacellulin (BTC) was found to boost regeneration in mice by stimulating the organ’s stem cells to multiply and form new nerve cells. The findings indicate that BTC may potentially advance future regeneration therapies for conditions that include stroke, traumatic brain injury, and dementia.

Robin Lovell-Badge, PhD, FMedSci, FRS, MRC’s National Institute for Medical Research (NMIR), led the research. “We hope that our new findings can add to the arsenal of exciting approaches coming out of stem cell biology that might eventually lead to better treatments for damaged brains,” Lovell-Badge says.

Researchers report that they studied the effects of BTC in the neuron formation of mice. The results suggested that BTC signals to both the stem cells and to neuroblasts, triggering proliferation. Additional doses of BTC in the mice reportedly exhibited a significant increase in both stem cells and neuroblasts in the mice’s brains, facilitating the formation of multiple, new neurons. Mice treated with an antibody that blocks BTC activity, exhibited suppression in the production of new neurons.

Researchers add that since BTC facilitates the production of new neurons, rather than glial cells, it could potentially expand the effectiveness of regenerative medicine treatments designed to encourage brain repair. Jim Smith, PhD, director of the NIMR, explains the importance of the study and its potential role in regenerative medicine, “This study is an important step towards our goal of moving beyond the replacement of tissues and organs to the exploitation of the intrinsic repair and regenerative potential of the human body,” Smith says.

An MRC press release notes that further research is needed to explain the role of BTC in the brain and explore the effects of BTC on damaged brains alone, or together with transplanted neural stem cells, in animal models.

Source: MRC