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Int Breakthrough in Brain Recovery Reseach

International Breakthrough in Brain Recovery Research

Medical researchers at The University of Auckland have shown for the first time that the adult brain has cells capable of repairing damage caused by degenerative diseases.

The research breakthrough was reported this week in the prominent American international scientific journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences”.

Professor Richard Faull, of the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, says the identification of cells that have a role in tissue repair in the diseased adult brain points to the possible development of treatments for people with Huntington’s, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

“For the first time, we have demonstrated that the adult human brain produces an increased number of new cells in an area of the brain called the subependymal layer in response to neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington’s.

“The subependymal layer is adjacent to the caudate nucleus – the part of the brain that is most severely affected by Huntington’s. Our findings suggest that these immature cells are proliferating in response to degeneration in the caudate nucleus, and are probably migrating towards the damaged area of the brain.

“We do not know what triggers this cellular activity – but it is clear that the increased number of new cells is insufficient to compensate for the progressive cell loss observed in brains affected by Huntington’s diseases,” said Professor Faull.

He says the discovery has important implications for the future development of effective, targeted treatments for patients.

“Our findings point to the possibility of a treatment being developed that would stimulate the growth and development of these new cells, and their migration to the damaged area of the brain. If this could be achieved, then the rate of cell loss may be slowed and the patient’s condition may improve.

“The discovery that the diseased adult brain is capable of cellular regeneration will be of major relevance for the development of therapeutic approaches in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases,” says Professor Faull.

The research was supported by grants from the Health Research Council of New Zealand and the Neurological Foundation of New Zealand.

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