In recent studies on mice, researchers at Johns Hopkins Institute for Cell Engineering discovered how stem cells "eavesdrop" on communications between neurons in the brain. The findings are reported in the July 29 advance online publication of Nature. This information has shown scientists how stem cells decide whether to create new brain cells or remain dormant. Using the neurotransmitter GABA, the researchers were able to see when electrical charges changed within the cells. In addition, they used various techniques with valium and mouse brain tissue to learn about which neurotransmitters the stem cells can detect, what messages brain cells can actually read and which neurons control the stem cells.
NARSAD Grantee Hongjun Song, Ph.D., professor of neurology and director of Johns Hopkins Medicine’s Institute for Cell Engineering said, “What we learned is that brain stem cells don’t communicate in the official way that neurons do, through synapses or by directly signaling each other. Synapses, like cell phones, allow nerve cells to talk with each other. Stem cells don’t have synapses, but our experiments show they indirectly hear the neurons talking to each other; it’s like listening to someone near you talking on a phone.”
Other NARSAD Grantees involved in these studies include Guo-li Ming of Johns Hopkins University, Konstantinos Meletis, Ph.D. of the Karolinska Institutet, Z. Josh Huang, Ph.D. and Grigori Enikolopov, Ph.D. of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and Karl Deisseroth, M.D., Ph.D. of Stanford University.