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Untapped Potential

Latent stem cells respond to injury in the central nervous system

11 December 2022

Untapped Potential

After disease or injury, stem cells help repair damage by replacing lost cells. Many organs have latent stem cells that lie in wait and spring into action should any trauma occur. Whether they exist in the central nervous system (CNS) was unclear. Now researchers have found such a group in mice, that develop early in the embryo and spread from the brain to the end of the spinal cord. These normally inactive stem cells leap into action when the spinal cord is injured, moving towards the damaged area, dividing and crucially creating all three main cell types of the CNS, oligodendrocytes, neurons and astrocytes (pictured). It remains to be seen whether these stem cells exist in humans. If they do, it may one day be possible to activate them therapeutically for brain and spinal cord injuries, which are particularly difficult to treat.

Written by Sophie Arthur

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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